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Full text of "Prejudices: second series"

PREJUDICES 

SECOND SERIE S 
BY H.L. MENCKEN 



THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 




ENDOWED BY THE 


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DIALECTIC AND PHILANTHROPIC 


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SOCIETIES 












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PS3525 
P82 








1921 









UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



00007814065 



This book is due at the WALTER R. DAVIS LIBRARY on 
the last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold it 
may be renewed by bringing it to the library. 



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PREJUDICES 

SECOND SERIES 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/prejudicessecondOOmenc 



PREJUDICES 

SECOND SERIES 



By H. L. MENCKEN 




JONATHAN GAPE 

11 GOWER STREET • LONDON 



First published IQ2I 
All rights reserved 






Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 

I The National Letters, 9 

1. Prophets and Their Visions, 9 

2. The Answering Fact, 14 

3. The Ashes of New England, 18 

4. The Ferment Underground, 25 

5. In the Literary Abattoir, 32 

6. Underlying Causes, 39 

7. The Lonesome Artist, 54 

8. The Cultural Background, 65 

9. Under the Campus Pump, 78 

10. The Intolerable Burden, 87 

11. Epilogue, 98 

II Roosevelt: an Autopsy, 102 

III The Sahara of the Bozart, 136 

IV The Divine Afflatus, 155 

V Scientific Examination of a Popular Virtue, 172 
VI Exeunt Omnes, 180 

VII The Allied Arts, 194 

1. On Music-Lovers, 194 

2. Opera, 197 

3. The Music of To-morrow, 201 

4. Tempo di Valse, 204 



817391 



CONTENTS 

5. The Puritan as Artist, 206 

6. The Human Face, 206 

7. The Cerebral Mime, 208 

VIII The Cult of Hope, 211 

IX The Dry Millennium, 219 

1. The Holy War, 219 

2. The Lure of Babylon, 222 

3. Cupid and Well- Water, 225 

4. The Triumph of Idealism, 226 

X Appendix on a Tender Theme, 229 

1. The Nature of Love, 229 

2. The Incomparable Buzzsaw, 236 

3. Women as Spectacles, 238 

4. Woman and the Artist, 240 

5. Martyrs, 243 

6. The Burnt Child, 244 

7. The Supreme Comedy, 244 

8. A Hidden Cause, 245 

9. Bad Workmanship, 245 



PREJUDICES 

SECOND SERIES 



PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

I. THE NATIONAL LETTERS 



Prophets and Their Visions 

IT is convenient to begin, like the gentlemen of 
God, with a glance at a text or two. The first, 
a short one, is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's 
celebrated oration, "The American Scholar," deliv- 
ered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge 
on August 31st, 1837. Emerson was then thirty- 
four years old and almost unknown in his own coun- 
try, though he had already published "Nature" and 
established his first contacts with Landor and Carlyle. 
But "The American Scholar" brought him into in- 
stant notice at home, partly as man of letters but more 
importantly as seer and prophet, and the fame thus 
founded has endured without much diminution, at 
all events in New England, to this day. Oliver Wen- 
dell Holmes, giving words to what was undoubtedly 
the common feeling, hailed the address as the intel- 
lectual declaration of independence of the American 
people, and that judgment, amiably passed on by 
three generations of pedagogues, still survives in the 
literature books. I quote from the first paragraph: 



10 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Our day of dependence, our long apprenticeship to the 
learning of other lands, draws to a close. . . . Events, ac- 
tions arise, that must be sung, that will sing themselves. 
Who can doubt that poetry will revive and lead in a new 
age, as the star in the constellation Harp, which now flames 
in our zenith, astronomers announce, shall one day be the 
pole-star for a thousand years? 

This, as I say, was in 1837. Thirty-three years 
later, in 1870, Walt Whitman echoed the prophecy 
in his even more famous "Democratic Vistas." What 
he saw in his vision and put into his gnarled and gasp- 
ing prose was 

a class of native authors, literatuses, far different, far higher 
in grade, than any yet known, sacerdotal, modern, fit to 
cope with our occasions, lands, permeating the whole mass 
of American morality, taste, belief, breathing into it a new 
breath of life, giving it decision, affecting politics far more 
than the popular superficial suffrage, with results inside 
and underneath the elections of Presidents or Congress — 
radiating, begetting appropriate teachers, schools, man- 
ners, and, as its grandest result, accomplishing, (what 
neither the schools nor the churches and their clergy have 
hitherto accomplished, and without which this nation will 
no more stand, permanently, soundly, than a house will 
stand without a substratum,) a religious and moral char- 
acter beneath the political and productive and intellectual 
bases of the States. 

And out of the vision straightway came the prog- 
nostication: 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 11 

The promulgation and belief in such a class or order — a 
new and greater literatus order — its possibility, (nay, cer- 
tainty,) underlies these entire speculations. . . . Above all 
previous lands, a great original literature is sure to become 
the justification and reliance, (in some respects the sole 
reliance,) of American democracy. 

Thus Whitman in 1870, the time of the first 
draft of "Democratic Vistas." He was of the same 
mind, and said so, in 1888, four years before his 
death. I could bring up texts of like tenor in great 
number, from the years before 1837, from those 
after 1888, and from every decade between. The 
dream of Emerson, though the eloquence of its state- 
ment was new and arresting, embodied no novel pro- 
jection of the fancy; it merely gave a sonorous W aid- 
horn tone to what had been dreamed and said before. 
You will find almost the same high hope, the same 
exuberant confidence in the essays of the elder Chan- 
ning and in the "Lectures on American Literature" of 
Samuel Lorenzo Knapp, LL.D., the first native critic 
of beautiful letters — the primordial tadpole of all our 
later Mores, Brownells, Phelpses, Mabies, Brander 
Matthewses and other such grave and glittering fish. 
Knapp believed, like Whitman long after him, that 
the sheer physical grandeur of the New World would 
inflame a race of bards to unprecedented utterance. 
"What are the Tibers and Scamanders," he demanded, 
"measured by the Missouri and the Amazon? Or 



12 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

what the loveliness of Illysus or Avon by the Con- 
necticut or the Potomack? Whenever a nation wills 
it, prodigies are born." That is to say, prodigies lit- 
erary and ineffable as well as purely material — prodi- 
gies aimed, in his own words, at "the olympick 
crown" as well as at mere railroads, ships, wheat- 
fields, droves of hogs, factories and money. Nor 
were Channing and Knapp the first of the haruspices. 
Noah Webster, the lexicographer, who "taught mil- 
lions to spell but not one to sin," had seen the early 
starlight of the same Golden Age so early as 1789, 
as the curious will find by examining his "Dis- 
sertations on the English Language," a work 
fallen long since into undeserved oblivion. Nor was 
Whitman, taking sober second thought exactly a cen- 
tury later, the last of them. Out of many brethren 
of our own day, extravagantly articulate in print and 
among the chautauquas, I choose one — not because 
his hope is of purest water, but precisely because, like 
Emerson, he dilutes it with various discreet where- 
ases. He is Van Wyck Brooks, a young man far 
more intelligent, penetrating and hospitable to fact 
than any of the reigning professors — a critic who is 
sharply differentiated from them, indeed, by the sim- 
ple circumstance that he has information and sense. 
Yet this extraordinary Mr. Brooks, in his "Letters 
and Leadership," published in 1918, rewrites "The 
American Scholar" in terms borrowed almost bodily 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 13 

from "Democratic Vistas" — that is to say, he 
prophesies with Emerson and exults with Whit- 
man. First there is the Emersonian doctrine of the 
soaring individual made articulate by freedom and 
realizing "the responsibility that lies upon us, each 
in the measure of his own gift." And then there is 
Whitman's vision of a self -interpretative democracy, 
forced into high literary adventures by Joseph Con- 
rad's "obscure inner necessity," and so achieving a 
"new synthesis adaptable to the unique conditions of 
our life." And finally there is the specific prediction, 
the grandiose, Adam Forepaugh mirage: "We shall 
become a luminous people, dwelling in the light and 
sharing our light." . . . 

As I say, the roll of such soothsayers might be 
almost endlessly lengthened. There is, in truth, 
scarcely a formal discourse upon the national letters 
(forgetting, perhaps, Barrett Wendell's sour threnody 
upon the New England Aufklarung) that is without 
some touch of this previsional exultation, this confi- 
dent hymning of glories to come, this fine assurance 
that American literature, in some future always ready 
to dawn, will burst into so grand a flowering that his- 
tory will cherish its loveliest blooms even above such 
salient American gifts to culture as the moving-pic- 
ture, the phonograph, the New Thought and the bi- 
chloride tablet. If there was ever a dissenter from 
the national optimism, in this as in other departments, 



14 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

it was surely Edgar Allan Poe — without question 
the bravest and most original, if perhaps also the 
least orderly and judicious, of all the critics 
that we have produced. And yet even Poe, despite 
his general habit of disgust and dismay, caught 
a flash or two of that engaging picture — even Poe, 
for an instant, in 1846, thought that he saw the 
beginnings of a solid and autonomous native litera- 
ture, its roots deep in the soil of the republic — as you 
will discover by turning to his forgotten essay on J. G. 
C. Brainard, a thrice-forgotten doggereleer of Jack- 
son's time. Poe, of course, was too cautious to let his 
imagination proceed to details; one feels that a cer- 
tain doubt, a saving peradventure or two, played 
about the unaccustomed vision as he beheld it. But, 
nevertheless, he unquestionably beheld it. . . . 



The Answering Fact 

Now for the answering fact. How has the issue 
replied to these visionaries? It has replied in a way 
that is manifestly to the discomfiture of Emerson as a 
prophet, to the dismay of Poe as a pessimist disarmed 
by transient optimism, and to the utter collapse of 
Whitman. We have, as every one knows, produced 
no such "new and greater literatus order" as that 
announced by old Walt. We have given a gaping 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 15 

world no books that "radiate," and surely none in- 
telligibly comparable to stars and constellations. We 
have achieved no prodigies of the first class, and very 
few of the second class, and not many of the third and 
fourth classes. Our literature, despite several false 
starts that promised much, is chiefly remarkable, now 
as always, for its respectable mediocrity. Its typi- 
cal great man, in our own time, has been Howells, as 
its typical great man a generation ago was Lowell, 
and two generations ago, Irving. Viewed largely, its 
salient character appears as a sort of timorous flac- 
cidity, an amiable hollowness. In bulk it grows more 
and more formidable, in ease and decorum it makes 
undoubted progress, and on the side of mere technic, 
of the bald capacity to write, it shows an ever-widen- 
ing competence. But when one proceeds from such 
agencies and externals to the intrinsic substance, to 
the creative passion within, that substance quickly 
reveals itself as thin and watery, and that passion 
fades to something almost puerile. In all that mass 
of suave and often highly diverting writing there is 
no visible movement toward a distinguished and sin- 
gular excellence, a signal national quality, a ripe and 
stimulating flavor, or, indeed, toward any other de- 
scribable goal. What one sees is simply a general 
irresolution, a pervasive superficiality. There is 
no sober grappling with fundamentals, but only 
a shy sporting on the surface; there is not even 



16 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

any serious approach, such as Whitman dreamed of, 
to the special experiences and emergencies of the 
American people. When one turns to any other 
national literature — to Russian literature, say, or 
French, or German or Scandinavian — one is conscious 
immediately of a definite attitude toward the primary 
mysteries of existence, the unsolved and ever-fascinat- 
ing problems at the bottom of human life, and of a 
definite preoccupation with some of them, and a defi- 
nite way of translating their challenge into drama. 
These attitudes and preoccupations raise a literature 
above mere poetizing and tale-telling; they give it dig- 
nity and importance; above all, they give it national 
character. But it is precisely here that the literature 
of America, and especially the later literature, is most 
colorless and inconsequential. As if paralyzed by 
the national fear of ideas, the democratic distrust of 
whatever strikes beneath the prevailing platitudes, it 
evades all resolute and honest dealing with what, 
after all, must be every healthy literature's elemen- 
tary materials. One is conscious of no brave and 
noble earnestness in it, of no generalized passion for 
intellectual and spiritual adventure, of no organized 
determination to think things out. What is there is a 
highly self-conscious and insipid correctness, a blood- 
less respectability, a submergence of matter in man- 
ner — in brief, what is there is the feeble, uninspiring 
quality of German painting and English music. 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 17 

It was so in the great days and it is so to-day. 
There has always been hope and there has always 
been failure. Even the most optimistic prophets 
of future glories have been united, at all times, 
in their discontent with the here and now. "The 
mind of this country," said Emerson, speaking 
of what was currently visible in 1837, "is taught to 
aim at low objects. . . . There is no work for any 
but the decorous and the complaisant. . . . Books 
are written ... by men of talent . . . who start 
wrong, who set out from accepted dogmas, not from 
their own sight of principles." And then, turning 
to the way out: "The office of the scholar (i.e., of 
Whitman's 'literatus') is to cheer, to raise and to 
guide men by showing them facts amid appearances." 
Whitman himself, a full generation later, found that 
office still unfilled. "Our fundamental want to-day 
in the United States," he said, "with closest, amplest 
reference to present conditions, and to the future, is 
of a class, and the clear idea of a class, of native 
authors, literatuses, far different, far higher in grade, 
than any yet known" — and so on, as I have already 
quoted him. And finally, to make an end of the 
prophets, there is Brooks, with nine-tenths of his 
book given over, not to his prophecy — it is crowded, 
indeed, into the last few pages — but to a somewhat 
heavy mourning over the actual scene before him. 
On the side of letters, the aesthetic side, the side of 



18 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ideas, we present to the world at large, he says, "the 
spectacle of a vast, undifferentiated herd of good- 
humored animals" — Knights of Pythias, Presbyte- 
rians, standard model Ph.D.'s, readers of the Satur- 
day Evening Post, admirers of Richard Harding Davis 
and 0. Henry, devotees of Hamilton Wright Mabie's 
"white list" of books, members of the Y. M. C. A. or 
the Drama League, weepers at chautauquas, wearers 
of badges, 100 per cent, patriots, children of God. 
Poe I pass over; I shall turn to him again later 
on. Nor shall I repeat the parrotings of Emer- 
son and Whitman in the jeremiads of their in- 
numerable heirs and assigns. What they all estab- 
lish is what is already obvious : that American think- 
ing, when it concerns itself with beautiful letters as 
when it concerns itself with religious dogma or po- 
litical theory, is extraordinarily timid and superfi- 
cial — that it evades the genuinely serious problems of 
life and art as if they were stringently taboo — that 
the outward virtues it undoubtedly shows are always 
the virtues, not of profundity, not of courage, not of 
originality, but merely those of an emasculated and 
often very trashy dilettantism. 

3 

The Ashes of New England 

The current scene is surely depressing enough. 
What one observes is a literature in three lay- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 19 

ers, and each inordinately doughy and unin- 
spiring — each almost without flavor or savor. It is 
hard to say, with much critical plausibility, which 
layer deserves to be called the upper, but for deco- 
rum's sake the choice may be fixed upon that which 
meets with the approval of the reigning Lessings. 
This is the layer of the novels of the late Howells, 
Judge Grant, Alice Brown and the rest of the dwin- 
dling survivors of New England Kultur, of the brittle, 
academic poetry of Woodberry and the elder Johnson, 
of the tea-party essays of Crothers, Miss Repplier and 
company, and of the solemn, highly judicial, cor- 
oner's inquest criticism of More, Brownell, Babbitt 
and their imitators. Here we have manner, undoubt- 
edly. The thing is correctly done; it is never crude or 
gross; there is in it a faint perfume of college-town 
society. But when this highly refined and attenuated 
manner is allowed for what remains is next to nothing. 
One never remembers a character in the novels of 
these aloof and de- Americanized Americans; one 
never encounters an idea in their essays; one never 
carries away a line out of their poetry. It is liter- 
ature as an academic exercise for talented gramma- 
rians, almost as a genteel recreation for ladies and 
gentlemen of fashion — the exact equivalent, in the 
field of letters, of eighteenth century painting and Ger- 
man Augenmusik. 

What ails it, intrinsically, is a dearth of intellectual 



20 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

audacity and of aesthetic passion. Running through 
it, and characterizing the work of almost every man 
and woman producing it, there is an unescapable sug- 
gestion of the old Puritan suspicion of the fine arts 
as such — of the doctrine that they offer fit asylum for 
good citizens only when some ulterior and superior 
purpose is carried into them. This purpose, natu- 
rally enough, most commonly shows a moral tinge. 
The aim of poetry, it appears, is to fill the mind with 
lofty thoughts — not to give it joy, but to give it a 
grand and somewhat gaudy sense of virtue. The es- 
say is a weapon against the degenerate tendencies of 
the age. The novel, properly conceived, is a means 
of uplifting the spirit; its aim is to inspire, not merely 
to satisfy the low curiosity of man in man. The Pur- 
itan, of course, is not entirely devoid of aesthetic feel- 
ing. He has a taste for good form; he responds to 
style; he is even capable of something approaching a 
purely aesthetic emotion. But he fears this aesthetic 
emotion as an insinuating distraction from his chief 
business in life: the sober consideration of the all- 
important problem of conduct. Art is a temptation, 
a seduction, a Lorelei, and the Good Man may safely 
have traffic with it only when it is broken to moral 
uses — in other words, when its innocence is pumped 
out of it, and it is purged of gusto. It is precisely 
this gusto that one misses in all the work of the New 
England school, and in all the work of the formal 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 21 

schools that derive from it. One observes in such a 
fellow as Dr. Henry Van Dyke an excellent specimen 
of the whole clan. He is, in his way, a genuine artist. 
He has a hand for pretty verses. He wields a facile 
rhetoric. He shows, in indiscreet moments, a touch 
of imagination. But all the while he remains a sound 
Presbyterian, with one eye on the devil. He is a 
Presbyterian first and an artist second, which is just 
as comfortable as trying to be a Presbyterian first and 
a chorus girl second. To such a man it must in- 
evitably appear that a Moliere, a Wagner, a Goethe 
or a Shakespeare was more than a little bawdy. 

The criticism that supports this decaying caste of 
literary Brahmins is grounded almost entirely upon 
ethical criteria. You will spend a long while going 
through the works of such typical professors as More, 
Phelps, Boynton, Burton, Perry, Brownell and Bab- 
bitt before ever you encounter a purely aesthetic judg- 
ment upon an aesthetic question. It is almost as if 
a man estimating daffodils should do it in terms of 
artichokes. Phelps' whole body of "we church- 
goers" criticism — the most catholic and tolerant, it 
may be said in passing, that the faculty can show — 
consists chiefly of a plea for correctness, and particu- 
larly for moral correctness; he never gets very far 
from "the axiom of the moral law." Brownell ar- 
gues eloquently for standards that would bind an 
imaginative author as tightly as a Sunday-school su- 



22 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

perintendent is bound by the Ten Commandments and 
the Mann Act. Sherman tries to save Shakespeare 
for the right-thinking by proving that he was an Iowa 
Methodist — a member of his local Chamber of Com- 
merce, a contemner of Reds, an advocate of democ- 
racy and the League of Nations, a patriotic dollar-a- 
year-man during the Armada scare. Elmer More de- 
votes himself, year in and year out, to denouncing the 
Romantic movement, i. e., the effort to emancipate 
the artist from formulae and categories, and so make 
him free to dance with arms and legs. And Babbitt, 
to make an end, gives over his days and his nights to 
deploring Rousseau's anarchistic abrogation of "the 
veto power" over the imagination, leading to such 
"wrongness" in both art and life that it threatens "to 
wreck civilization." In brief, the alarms of school- 
masters. Not many of them deal specifically with the 
literature that is in being. It is too near to be quite 
nice. To More or Babbitt only death can atone for 
the primary offense of the artist. But what they 
preach nevertheless has its echoes contemporaneously, 
and those echoes, in the main, are woefully falsetto. 
I often wonder what sort of picture of These States is 
conjured up by foreigners who read, say, Crothers, 
Van Dyke, Babbitt, the later Winston Churchill, and 
the old maids of the Freudian suppression school. 
How can such a foreigner, moving in those damp, 
asthmatic mists, imagine such phenomena as Roose- 



TEE NATIONAL LETTERS 23 

velt, Billy Sunday, Bryan, the Becker case, the I. W. 
W., Newport, Palm Beach, the University of Chicago, 
Chicago itself — the whole, gross, glittering, exces- 
sively dynamic, infinitely grotesque, incredibly stu- 
pendous drama of American life? 

As I have said, it is not often that the ordentlichen 
Professoren deign to notice contemporary writers, 
even of their own austere kidney. In all the Shel- 
burne Essays there is none on Howells, or on 
Churchill, or on Mrs. Wharton; More seems to think 
of American literature as expiring with Longfellow 
and Donald G. Mitchell. He has himself hinted that 
in the department of criticism of criticism there enters 
into the matter something beyond mere aloof ignor- 
ance. "I soon learned (as editor of the pre-Bolshevik 
Nation)/' he says, "that it was virtually impossible to 
get fair consideration for a book written by a scholar 
not connected with a university from a reviewer so 
connected." This class consciousness, however, 
should not apply to artists, who are admittedly in- 
ferior to professors, and it surely does not show itself 
in such men as Phelps and Spingarn, who seem to be 
very eager to prove that they are not professorial. 
Yet Phelps, in the course of a long work on the novel, 
pointedly omits all mention of such men as Dreiser, 
and Spingarn, as the aforesaid Brooks has said, "ap- 
pears to be less inclined even than the critics with 
whom he is theoretically at war to play an active, 



24 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

public part in the secular conflict of darkness and 
light." When one comes to the Privat-Dozenten there 
is less remoteness, but what takes the place of it is 
almost as saddening. To Sherman and Percy Boyn- 
ton the one aim of criticism seems to be the enforce- 
ment of correctness — in Emerson's phrase, the up- 
holding of "some great decorum, some fetish of a 
government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or 
man" — e. g., Puritanism, democracy, monogamy, the 
League of Nations, the Wilsonian piffle. Even among 
the critics who escape the worst of this schoolmaster- 
ing frenzy there is some touch of the heavy "culture" 
of the provincial schoolma'm. For example, con- 
sider Clayton Hamilton, M.A., vice-president of the 
National Institute of Arts and Letters. Here are the 
tests he proposes for dramatic critics, i, e., for gentle- 
men chiefly employed in reviewing such characteristic 
American compositions as the Ziegfeld Follies, "Up 
in Mabel's Room," "Ben-Hur" and "The Witching 
Hour": 

1. Have you ever stood bareheaded in the nave of 
Amiens? 

2. Have you ever climbed to the Acropolis by moonlight? 

3. Have you ever walked with whispers into the hushed 
presence of the Frari Madonna of Bellini? 

What could more brilliantly evoke an image of the 
eternal Miss Birch, blue veil flying and Baedeker in 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 25 

hand, plodding along faithfully through the intermin- 
able corridors and catacombs of the Louvre, the while 
bands are playing across the river, and young bucks 
in three-gallon hats are sparking the gals, and the 
Jews and harlots uphold the traditions of French hig 
leef at Longchamps, and American deacons are 
frisked and debauched up on martyrs' hill? The 
banality of it is really too exquisite to be borne; the 
lack of humor is almost that of a Fifth avenue divine. 
One seldom finds in the pronunciamentoes of these 
dogged professors, indeed, any trace of either Attic 
or Gallic salt. When they essay to be jocose, the re- 
sult is usually simply an elephantine whimsicality, 
by the chautauqua out of the Atlantic Monthly. Their 
satire is mere ill-nature. One finds it difficult to be- 
lieve that they have ever read Lewes, or Hazlitt, or, 
above all, Saintsbury. I often wonder, in fact, how 
Saintsbury would fare, an unknown man, at the hands 
of, say, Brownell or More. What of his iconoclastic 
gayety, his boyish weakness for tweaking noses and 
pulling whiskers, his obscene delight in slang? . . . 

4 

The Ferment Underground 

So much for the top layer. The bottom layer is 
given over to the literature of Greenwich Village, and 
by Greenwich Village, of course, I mean the whole of 



26 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

the advanced wing in letters, whatever the scene of its 
solemn declarations of independence and forlorn 
hopes. Miss Amy Lowell is herself a fully-equipped 
and automobile Greenwich Village, domiciled in Bos- 
ton amid the crumbling gravestones of the New Eng- 
land intelligentsia, but often in waspish joy-ride 
through the hinterland. Vachel Lindsay, with his pil- 
grim's staff, is another. There is a third in Chicago, 
with Poetry: A Magazine of Verse as its Exhibit A; 
it is, in fact, the senior of the Village fornenst Wash- 
ington Square. Others you will find in far-flung fac- 
tory towns, wherever there is a Little Theater, and a 
couple of local Synges and Chekovs to supply its 
stage. St. Louis, before Zoe Akins took flight, had 
the busiest of all these Greenwiches, and the most in- 
teresting. What lies under the whole movement is 
the natural revolt of youth against the pedagogical 
Prussianism of the professors. The oppression is ex- 
treme, and so the rebellion is extreme. Imagine a 
sentimental young man of the provinces, awaking one 
morning to the somewhat startling discovery that he 
is full of the divine afflatus, and nominated by the 
hierarchy of hell to enrich the literature of his father- 
land. He seeks counsel and aid. He finds, on con- 
sulting the official treatises on that literature, that its 
greatest poet was Longfellow. He is warned, reading 
More and Babbitt, that the literatus who lets feeling 
get into his compositions is a psychic fornicator, and 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 27 

under German influences. He has formal notice from 
Sherman that Puritanism is the lawful philosophy of 
the country, and that any dissent from it is treason. 
He gets the news, plowing through the New York 
Times Book Review, the Nation (so far to the left in 
its politics, but hugging the right so desperately in 
letters!) the Bookman, the Atlantic and the rest, that 
the salient artists of the living generation are such 
masters as Robert Underwood Johnson, Owen Wister, 
James Lane Allen, George E. Woodberry, Hamlin 
Garland, William Roscoe Thayer and Augustus 
Thomas, with polite bows to Margaret Deland, Mary 
Johnston and Ellen Glasgow. It slowly dawns upon 
him that Robert W. Chambers is an academician and 
Theodore Dreiser isn't, that Brian Hooker is and 
George Sterling isn't, that Henry Sydnor Harrison is 
and James Branch Cabell isn't, that "Chimmie Fad- 
den" Townsend is and Sherwood Anderson isn't. 

Is it any wonder that such a young fellow, after one 
or two sniffs of that prep-school fog, swings so vastly 
backward that one finds him presently in corduroy 
trousers and a velvet jacket, hammering furiously 
upon a pine table in a Macdougal street cellar, his 
mind full of malicious animal magnetism against even 
so amiable an old maid as Howells, and his discourse 
full of insane hair-splittings about vers libre, futur- 
ism, spectrism, vorticism, Expressionismus, helioga- 
balisme? The thing, in truth, is in the course of na- 



28 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ture. The Spaniards who were outraged by the Pal- 
merism of Torquemada did not become members of 
the Church of England; they became atheists. The 
American colonists, in revolt against a bad king, did 
not set up a good king; they set up a democracy, and 
so gave every honest man a chance to become a rogue 
on his own account. Thus the young literatus, emerg- 
ing from the vacuum of Ohio or Arkansas. An early 
success, as we shall see, tends to halt and moderate 
him. He finds that, after all, there is still a place for 
him, a sort of asylum for such as he, not over-popu- 
lated or very warmly-heated, but nevertheless quite 
real. But if his sledding at the start is hard, if the 
corrective birch finds him while he is still tender, 
then he goes, as Andrew Jackson would say, the whole 
hog, and another voice is added to the raucous bellow- 
ing of the literary Reds. 

I confess that the spectacle gives me some joy, de- 
spite the fact that the actual output of the Village is 
seldom worth noticing. What commonly engulfs and 
spoils the Villagers is their concern with mere tech- 
nique. Among them, it goes without saying, are a 
great many frauds — poets whose yearning to write is 
unaccompanied by anything properly describable as 
capacity, dramatists whose dramas are simply Schnitz- 
ler and well-water, workers in prose fiction who 
gravitate swiftly and inevitably to the machine-made 
merchandise of the cheap magazines — in brief, 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 29 

American equivalents of the bogus painters of the 
BouP Mich'. These pretenders, having no ideas, nat- 
urally try to make the most of forms. Half the wars 
in the Village are over form; content is taken for 
granted, or forgotten altogether. The extreme left- 
ists, in fact, descend to a meaningless gibberish, both 
in prose and in verse; it is their last defiance to in- 
tellectualism. This childish concentration upon ex- 
ternals unfortunately tends to debauch the small mi- 
nority that is of more or less genuine parts; the good 
are pulled in by the bad. As a result, the Village 
produces nothing that justifies all the noise it makes. 
I have yet to hear of a first-rate book coming out of 
it, or a short story of arresting quality, or even a 
poem of any solid distinction. As one of the edi- 
tors of a magazine which specializes in the work of 
new authors I am in an exceptional position to report. 
Probably nine-tenths of the stuff written in the dark 
dens and alleys south of the arch comes to my desk 
soon or late, and I go through all of it faithfully. It 
is, in the overwhelming main, jejune and imitative. 
The prose is quite without distinction, either in mat- 
ter or in manner. The verse seldom gets beyond a 
hollow audaciousness, not unlike that of cubist paint- 
ing. It is not often, indeed, that even personality is 
in it; all of the Villagers seem to write alike. "Un- 
less one is an expert in some detective method," said a 
recent writer in Poetry, "one is at a loss to assign cor- 



30 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

rectly the ownership of much free verse — that is, if 
one plays fairly and refuses to look at the signature 
until one has ventured a guess. It is difficult, for 
instance, to know whether Miss Lowell is writing Mr. 
Bynner's verse, or whether he is writing hers." 
Moreover, this monotony keeps to a very low level. 
There is no poet in the movement who has produced 
anything even remotely approaching the fine lyrics 
of Miss Reese, Miss Teasdale and John McClure, and 
for all its war upon the cliche it can show nothing to 
equal the cliche-free beauty of Robert Loveman's 
"Rain Song." In the drama the Village has gone 
further. In Eugene O'Neill, Rita Wellman and Zoe 
Akins it offers dramatists who are obviously many 
cuts above the well-professored mechanicians who 
pour out of Prof. Dr. Baker's Ibsenfabrik at Cam- 
bridge. But here we must probably give the credit, 
not to any influence residing within the movement 
itself, but to mere acts of God. Such pieces as 
O'Neill's one-acters, Miss Wellman's "The Gentile 
Wife" and Miss Akins' extraordinary "Papa" lie 
quite outside the Village scheme of things. There is 
no sign of formal revolt in them. They are simply 
first-rate work, done miraculously in a third-rate land. 
But if the rebellion is thus sterile of direct results, 
and, in more than one aspect, fraudulent and ridicu- 
lous, it is at all events an evidence of something not to 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 31 

be disregarded, and that something is the gradual for- 
mulation of a challenge to the accepted canons in 
letters and to the accepted canon lawyers. The first 
hoots come from a tatterdemalion horde of rogues 
and vagabonds without the gates, but soon or late, 
let us hope, they will be echoed in more decorous 
quarters, and with much greater effect. The Village, 
in brief, is an earnest that somewhere or other new 
seeds are germinating. Between the young tutor who 
launches into letters with imitations of his seminary 
chief's imitations of Agnes Repplier's imitations of 
Charles Lamb, and the young peasant who tries to get 
his honest exultations into free verse there can be 
no hesitant choice: the peasant is, by long odds, the 
sounder artist, and, what is more, the sounder Amer- 
ican artist. Even the shy and somewhat stagey carn- 
ality that characterizes the Village has its high sym- 
bolism and its profound uses. It proves that, despite 
repressions unmatched in civilization in modern 
times, there is still a sturdy animality in American 
youth, and hence good health. The poet hugging his 
Sonia in a Washington square beanery, and so giving 
notice to all his world that he is a devil of a fellow, is 
at least a better man than the emasculated stripling in 
a Y. M. C. A. gospel-mill, pumped dry of all his 
natural appetites and the vacuum filled with double- 
entry book-keeping, business economics and auto- 



32 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

erotism. In so foul a nest of imprisoned and fer- 
menting sex as the United States, plain fornication 
becomes a mark of relative decency. 



In the Literary Abattoir 

But the theme is letters, not wickedness. The 
upper and lower layers have been surveyed. 
There remains the middle layer, the thickest and 
perhaps the most significant of the three. By the 
middle layer I mean the literature that fills the maga- 
zines and burdens the book-counters in the depart- 
ment-stores — the literature adorned by such artists 
as Richard Harding Davis, Rex Beach, Emerson 
Hough, 0. Henry, James Whitcomb Riley, Augustus 
Thomas, Robert W. Chambers, Henry Sydnor Har- 
rison, Owen Johnson, Cyrus Townsend Brady, Irvin 
Cobb and Mary Roberts Rinehart — in brief, the lit- 
erature that pays like a bucket-shop or a soap-factory, 
and is thus thoroughly American. At the bottom this 
literature touches such depths of banality that it would 
be difficult to match it in any other country. The 
"inspirational" and patriotic essays of Dr. Frank 
Crane, Orison Sweet Marden, Porter Emerson 
Browne, Gerald Stanley Lee, E. S. Martin, Ella 
Wheeler Wilcox and the Rev. Dr. Newell Dwight 
Hillis, the novels of Harold Bell Wright, Eleanor H. 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 33 

Porter and Gene Stratton-Porter, and the mechanical 
sentimentalities in prose and verse that fill the cheap 
fiction magazines — this stuff has a native quality 
that is as unmistakable as that of Mother's Day, Billy- 
Sundayism or the Junior Order of United American 
Mechanics. It is the natural outpouring of a naive 
and yet half barbarous people, full of delight in a 
few childish and inaccurate ideas. But it would be 
a grave error to assume that the whole of the liter- 
ature of the middle layer is of the same infantile 
quality. On the contrary, a great deal of it — for ex- 
ample, the work of Mrs. Rinehart, and that of Corra 
Harris, Gouverneur Morris, Harold MacGrath and the 
late 0. Henry — shows an unmistakably technical ex- 
cellence, and even a certain civilized sophistication 
in point of view. Moreover, this literature is con- 
stantly graduating adept professors into something 
finer, as witness Booth Tarkington, Zona Gale, Ring 
W. Lardner and Montague Glass. S. L. Clemens 
came out of forty years ago. Nevertheless, its gen- 
eral tendency is distinctly in the other direction. It 
seduces by the power of money, and by the power of 
great acclaim no less. One constantly observes the 
collapse and surrender of writers who started out with 
aims far above that of the magazine nabob. I could 
draw up a long, long list of such victims : Henry Mil- 
ner Rideout, Jack London, Owen Johnson, Chester 
Bailey Fernald, Hamlin Garland, Will Levington 



34 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Comfort, Stephen French Whitman, James Hopper, 
Harry Leon Wilson, and so on. They had their fore- 
runner, in the last generation, in Bret Harte. It is, 
indeed, a characteristic American phenomenon for a 
young writer to score a success with novel and meri- 
torious work, and then to yield himself to the best- 
seller fever, and so disappear down the sewers. Even 
the man who struggles to emerge again is commonly 
hauled back. For example, Louis Joseph Vance, 
Rupert Hughes, George Bronson-Howard, and, to go 
back a few years, David Graham Phillips and Elbert 
Hubbard — all men flustered by high aspiration, and 
yet all pulled down by the temptations below. Even 
Frank Norris showed signs of yielding. The pull is 
genuinely powerful. Above lies not only isolation, 
but also a dogged and malignant sort of opposition. 
Below, as Morris has frankly admitted, there is the 
place at Aiken, the motor-car, babies, money in the 
bank, and the dignity of an important man. 

It is a commonplace of the envious to put all the 
blame upon the Saturday Evening Post, for in its 
pages many of the Magdalens of letters are to be 
found, and out of its bulging coffers comes much of 
the lure. But this is simply blaming the bull for the 
sins of all the cows. The Post, as a matter of fact, 
is a good deal less guilty than such magazines as the 
Cosmopolitan, Hearst's, McClure's and the Metropoli- 
tan, not to mention the larger women's magazines. In 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 35 

the Post one often discerns an effort to rise above the 
level of shoe-drummer fiction. It is edited by a man 
who, almost alone among editors of the great periodi- 
cals of the country, is himself a writer of respectable 
skill. It has brought out (after lesser publications 
unearthed them) a member of authors of very solid 
talents, notably Glass, Lardner and E. W. Howe. It 
has been extremely hospitable to men not immediately 
comprehensible to the mob, for example, Dreiser and 
Hergesheimer. Most of all, it has avoided the Bar- 
num-like exploitation of such native bosh-mongers as 
Crane, Hillis and Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and of such 
exotic mountebanks as D'Annunzio, Hall Caine and 
Maeterlinck. In brief, the Post is a great deal better 
than ever Greenwich Village and the Cambridge cam- 
pus are disposed to admit. It is the largest of all the 
literary Hog Islands, but it is by no means the worst. 
Appealing primarily to the great masses of right- 
thinking and unintelligent Americans, it must neces- 
sarily print a great deal of preposterous tosh, but it 
flavors the mess with not a few things of a far higher 
quality, and at its worst it is seldom downright idiotic. 
In many of the other great magazines one finds stuff 
that it would be difficult to describe in any other 
words. It is gaudily romantic, furtively sexual, and 
full of rubber-stamp situations and personages — a 
sort of amalgam of the worst drivel of Marie Corelli, 
Elinor Glyn, E. Phillips Oppenheim, William Le 



36 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Quex and Hall Caine. This is the literature of the 
middle layer — the product of the national Rockefel- 
lers and Duponts of letters. This is the sort of thing 
that the young author of facile pen is encouraged to 
manufacture. This is the material of the best sellers 
and the movies. 

Of late it is the movies that have chiefly pro- 
voked its composition : the rewards they offer are even 
greater than those held out by the commercial book- 
publishers and the train-boy magazines. The point 
of view of an author responsive to such rewards was 
recently set forth very naively in the Authors' League 
Bulletin. This author undertook, in a short article, 
to refute the fallacies of an unknown who ventured 
to protest against the movies on the ground that they 
called only for bald plots, elementary and generally 
absurd, and that all the rest of a sound writer's equip- 
ment — "the artistry of his style, the felicity of his apt 
expression, his subtlety and thoroughness of observa- 
tion and comprehension and sympathy, the illuminat- 
ing quality of his analysis of motive and character, 
even the fundamental skillful development of the bare 
plot" — was disdained by the Selznicks, Goldfishes, 
Zukors and other such entrepreneurs, and by the over- 
whelming majority of their customers. I quote from 
the reply: 

There are some conspicuous word merchants who deal in 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 37 

the English language, but the general public doesn't clamor 
for their wares. They write for the "thinking class." The 
elite, the discriminating. As a rule, they scorn the crass 
commercialism of the magazines and movies and such catch- 
penny devices. However, literary masterpieces live because 
they have been and will be read, not by the few, but by the 
many. That was true in the time of Homer, and even to-day 
the first move made by an editor when he receives a manu- 
script, or a gentle reader when he buys a book, or a T. B. M. 
when he sinks into an orchestra chair is to look around for 
John Henry Plot. If Mr. Plot is too long delayed in arriv- 
ing or doesn't come at all, the editor usually sends regrets, 
the reader yawns and the tired business man falls asleep. 
It's a sad state of affairs and awful tough on art, but it can't 
be helped. 

Observe the lofty scorn of mere literature — the su- 
perior irony at the expense of everything beyond the 
bumping of boobs. Note the sound judgment as to 
the function and fate of literary masterpieces, e. g., 
"Endymion," "The Canterbury Tales," "Faust," "Ty- 
phoon." Give your eye to the chaste diction — "John 
Henry Plot," "T. B. M.," "awful tough," and so on. 
No doubt you will at once assume that this curious 
counterblast to literature was written by some former 
bartender now engaged in composing scenarios for 
Pearl White and Theda Bara. But it was not. It 
was written and signed by the president of the Au- 
thors' League of America. 

Here we have, unconsciously revealed, the secret 



38 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

of the depressing badness of what may be called the 
staple fiction of the country — the sort of stuff that is 
done by the Richard Harding Davises, Rex Beaches, 
Houghs, McCutcheons, and their like, male and fe- 
male. The worse of it is not that it is addressed pri- 
marily to shoe-drummers and shop-girls; the worst of 
it is that it is written by authors who are, to all in- 
tellectual intents and purposes, shoe-drummers and 
shop-girls. American literature, even on its higher 
levels, seldom comes out of the small and lonesome 
upper classes of the people. An American author 
with traditions behind him and an environment about 
him comparable to those, say, of George Moore, or 
Hugh Walpole, or E. F. Benson is and always has 
been relatively rare. On this side of the water the 
arts, like politics and religion, are chiefly in the keep- 
ing of persons of obscure origin, defective education 
and elemental tastes. Even some of the most violent 
upholders of the New England superstition are aliens 
to the actual New England heritage; one discovers, 
searching "Who's Who in America," that they are re- 
cent fugitives from the six-day sock and saleratus 
Kultur of the cow and hog States. The artistic mer- 
chandise produced by liberated yokels of that sort is 
bound to show its intellectual newness, which is to say, 
its deficiency in civilized culture and sophistication. 
It is, on the plane of letters, precisely what evangeli- 
cal Christianity is on the plane of religion, to wit, the 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 39 

product of ill-informed, emotional and more or less 
pushing and oafish folk. Life, to such Harvardized 
peasants, is not a mystery; it is something absurdly 
simple, to be described with surety and in a few words. 
If they set up as critics their criticism is all a matter of 
facile labeling, chiefly ethical; find the pigeon-hole, 
and the rest is easy. If they presume to discuss the 
great problems of human society, they are equally 
ready with their answers: draw up and pass a harsh 
enough statute, and the corruptible will straightway 
put on incorruption. And if, fanned by the soft breath 
of beauty, they go into practice as creative artists, as 
poets, as dramatists, as novelists, then one learns from 
them that we inhabit a country that is the model and 
despair of other states, that its culture is coextensive 
with human culture and enlightenment, and that every 
failure to find happiness under that culture is the 
result of sin. 

6 

Underlying Causes 

Here is one of the fundamental defects of American 
fiction — perhaps the one character that sets it off 
sharply from all other known kinds of contemporary 
fiction. It habitually exhibits, not a man of delicate 
organization in revolt against the inexplicable tragedy 
of existence, but a man of low sensibilities and ele- 



40 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

mental desires yielding himself gladly to his environ- 
ment, and so achieving what, under a third-rate civili- 
zation, passes for success. To get on: this is the 
aim. To weigh and reflect, to doubt and rebel: this is 
the thing to be avoided. I describe the optimistic, 
the inspirational, the Authors' League, the popular 
magazine, the peculiarly American school. In char- 
acter creation its masterpiece is the advertising agent 
who, by devising some new and super-imbecile boob- 
trap, puts his hook-and-eye factory "on the map," 
ruins all other factories, marries the daughter of his 
boss, and so ends as an eminent man. Obviously, the 
drama underlying such fiction — what Mr. Beach 
would call its John Henry Plot — is false drama, Sun- 
day-school drama, puerile and disgusting drama. It 
is the sort of thing that awakens a response only in men 
who are essentially unimaginative, timorous and de- 
graded — in brief, in democrats, bagmen, yahoos. 
The man of reflective habit cannot conceivably take 
any passionate interest in the conflicts it deals with. 
He doesn't want to marry the daughter of the owner of 
the hook-and-eye factory; he would probably burn 
down the factory itself if it ever came into his hands. 
What interests this man is the far more poignant and 
significant conflict between a salient individual and 
the harsh and meaningless fiats of destiny, the unin- 
telligible mandates and vagaries of God. His hero 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 41 

is not one who yields and wins, but one who resists 
and fails. 

Most of these conflicts, of course, are internal, and 
hence do not make themselves visible in the overt 
melodrama of the Beaches, Davises and Chamberses. 
A superior man's struggle in the world is not with 
exterior lions, trusts, margraves, policemen, rivals in 
love, German spies, radicals and tornadoes, but with 
the obscure, atavistic impulses within him — the im- 
pulses, weaknesses and limitations that war with his 
notion of what life should be. Nine times out of ten 
he succumbs. Nine times out of ten he must yield to 
the dead hand. Nine times out of ten his aspiration 
is almost infinitely above his achievement. The re- 
sult is that we see him sliding downhill — his ideals 
breaking up, his hope petering out, his character in 
decay. Character in decay is thus the theme of the 
great bulk of superior fiction. One has it in Dos- 
toievsky, in Balzac, in Hardy, in Conrad, in Flaubert, 
in Zola, in Turgenieff, in Goethe, in Sudermann, in 
Bennett, and, to come home, in Dreiser. In nearly 
all first-rate novels the hero is defeated. In perhaps 
a majority he is completely destroyed. The hero of 
the inferior — i. e., the typically American — novel en- 
gages in no such doomed and fateful combat. His 
conflict is not with the inexplicable ukases of destiny, 
the limitations of his own strength, the dead hand 



42 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

upon him, but simply with the superficial desires of 
his elemental fellow men. He thus has a fair chance 
of winning — and in bad fiction that chance is always 
converted into a certainty. So he marries the daugh- 
ter of the owner of the factory and eventually gobbles 
the factory itself. His success gives thrills to per- 
sons who can imagine no higher aspiration. He em- 
bodies their optimism, as the other hero embodies the 
pessimism of more introspective and idealistic men. 
He is the protagonist of that great majority which is 
so inferior that it is quite unconscious of its in- 
feriority. 

It is this superficiality of the inferior man, it seems 
to me, that is the chief hallmark of the American 
novel. Whenever one encounters a novel that rises 
superior to it the thing takes on a subtle but unmistak- 
able air of foreignness — for example, Frank Norris' 
"Vandover and the Brute," Hergesheimer's "The Lay 
Anthony" and Miss Cather's "My Antonia," or, to 
drop to short stories, Stephen Crane's "The Blue 
Hotel" and Mrs. Wharton's "Ethan Frome." The 
short story is commonly regarded, at least by Amer- 
ican critics, as a preeminently American form; there 
are even patriots who argue that Bret Harte invented 
it. It meets very accurately, in fact, certain charac- 
teristic demands of the American temperament: it is 
simple, economical and brilliantly effective. Yet the 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 43 

same hollowness that marks the American novel also 
marks the American short story. Its great masters, 
in late years, have been such cheese-mongers as Davis, 
with his servant-girl romanticism, and 0. Henry, with 
his smoke-room and variety show smartness. In the 
whole canon of 0. Henry's work you will not find a 
single recognizable human character; his people are 
unanimously marionettes; he makes Mexican bri- 
gands, Texas cowmen and New York cracksmen talk 
the same highly ornate Broadwayese. The successive 
volumes of Edward J. O'Brien's "Best Short-Story" 
series throw a vivid light upon the feeble estate of the 
art in the land. O'Brien, though his aesthetic judg- 
ments are ludicrous, at least selects stories that are 
thoroughly representative; his books are trade suc- 
cesses because the crowd is undoubtedly with him. 
He has yet to discover a single story that even the 
most naive professor would venture to mention in the 
same breath with Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Dark- 
ness," or Andrieff's "Silence," or Sudermann's "Das 
Sterbelied," or the least considerable tale by Anatole 
France. In many of the current American makers of 
magazine short stories — for example, Gouverneur 
Morris — one observes, as I have said, a truly admir- 
able technical skill. They have mastered the externals 
of the form. They know how to get their effects. But 
in content their work is as hollow as a jug. Such stuff 



44 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

has no imaginable relation to life as men live it in the 
world. It is as artificial as the heroic strut and ro- 
mantic eyes of a moving-picture actor. 

I have spoken of the air of foreignness that clings 
to certain exceptional American compositions. In 
part it is based upon a psychological trick — upon the 
surprise which must inevitably seize upon any one 
who encounters a decent piece of writing in so vast a 
desert of mere literacy. But in part it is grounded 
soundly enough on the facts. The native author of 
any genuine force and originality is almost invariably 
found to be under strong foreign influences, either 
English or Continental. It was so in the earliest 
days. Freneau, the poet of the Revolution, was thor- 
oughly French in blood and traditions. Irving, as 
H. R. Haweis has said, "took to England as a duck 
takes to water," and was in exile seventeen years. 
Cooper, with the great success of "The Last of the Mo- 
hicans" behind him, left the country in disgust and 
was gone for seven years. Emerson, Bryant, Lowell, 
Hawthorne and even Longfellow kept their eyes 
turned across the water; Emerson, in fact, was little 
more than an importer and popularizer of German 
and French ideas. Bancroft studied in Germany; 
Prescott, like Irving, was enchanted by Spain. Poe, 
unable to follow the fashion, invented mythical travels 
to save his face — to France, to Germany, to the Greek 
isles. The Civil War revived the national conscious- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 45 

ness enormously, but it did not halt the movement of 
emigres, Henry James, in the seventies, went to 
England, Bierce and Bret Harte followed him, and 
even Mark Twain, absolutely American though he 
was, was forever pulling up stakes and setting out for 
Vienna, Florence or London. Only poverty tied 
Whitman to the soil; his audience, for many years, 
was chiefly beyond the water, and there, too, he often 
longed to be. This distaste for the national scene is 
often based upon a genuine alienness. The more, in- 
deed, one investigates the ancestry of Americans who 
have won distinction in the fine arts, the more one 
discovers tempting game for the critical Know Noth- 
ings. Whitman was half Dutch, Harte was half Jew, 
Poe was partly German, James had an Irish grand- 
father, Howells was largely Irish and German, 
Dreiser is German and Hergesheimer is Pennsylvania 
Dutch. Fully a half of the painters discussed in 
John G. van Dyke's "American Painting and Its Tra- 
dition" were of mixed blood, with the Anglo-Saxon 
plainly recessive. And of the five poets singled out 
for encomium by Miss Lowell in "Tendencies in Mod- 
ern American Poetry" one is a Swede, two are partly 
German, one was educated in the German language, 
and three of the five exiled themselves to England as 
soon as they got out of their nonage. The exiles are 
of all sorts: Frank Harris, Vincent O'Sullivan, Ezra 
Pound, Herman Scheffauer, T. S. Eliot, Henry B. 



46 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Fuller, Stuart Merrill, Edith Wharton. They go to 
England, France, Germany, Italy — anywhere to es- 
cape. Even at home the literatus is perceptibly for- 
eign in his mien. If he lies under the New England 
tradition he is furiously colonial — more English than 
the English. If he turns to revolt, he is apt to put 
on a French hat and a Russion red blouse. The Little 
Review, the organ of the extreme wing of revokes, is 
so violently exotic that several years ago, during the 
plupatriotic days of the war, some of its readers pro- 
tested. With characteristic lack of humor it replied 
with an American number — and two of the stars of 
that number bore the fine old Anglo-Saxon names of 
Ben Hecht and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. 

This tendency of American literature, the moment 
it begins to show enterprise, novelty and significance, 
to radiate an alien smell is not an isolated phenome- 
non. The same smell accompanies practically all 
other sorts of intellectual activity in the republic. 
Whenever one hears that a new political theory is in 
circulation, or a scientific heresy, or a movement to- 
ward rationalism in religion, it is always safe to guess 
that some discontented stranger or other has a hand 
in it. In the newspapers and on the floor of Con- 
gress a new heterodoxy is always denounced forth- 
with as a product of foreign plotting, and here public 
opinion undoubtedly supports both the press and the 
politicians, and with good reason. The native culture 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 47 

of the country — that is, the culture of the low caste 
Anglo-Saxons who preserve the national tradition — is 
almost completely incapable of producing ideas. It 
is a culture that roughly corresponds to what the cul- 
ture of England would be if there were no universi- 
ties over there, and no caste of intellectual individu- 
alists and no landed aristocracy — in other words, if 
the tone of the national thinking were set by the non- 
conformist industrials, the camorra of Welsh and 
Scotch political scoundrels, and the town and coun- 
try mobs. As we shall see, the United States 
has not yet produced anything properly describable 
as an aristocracy, and so there is no impediment to 
the domination of the inferior orders. Worse, the 
Anglo-Saxon strain, second-rate at the start, has 
tended to degenerate steadily to lower levels — in New 
England, very markedly. The result is that there is 
not only a great dearth of ideas in the land, but also 
an active and relentless hostility to ideas. The 
chronic suspiciousness of the inferior man here has 
full play; never in modern history has there been 
another civilization showing so vast a body of prohi- 
bitions and repressions, in bojh conduct and thought. 
The second result is that intellectual experimentation 
is chiefly left to the immigrants of the later migra- 
tions, and to the small sections of the native popula- 
tion that have been enriched with their blood. For 
such a pure Anglo-Saxon as Cabell to disport him- 



48 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

self in the field of ideas is a rarity in the United 
States — and no exception to the rule that I have just 
mentioned, for Cabell belongs to an aristocracy that 
is now almost extinct, and has no more in common 
with the general population than a Baltic baron has 
with the indigenous herd of Letts and Esthonians. 
All the arts in America are thoroughly exotic. Music 
is almost wholly German or Italian, painting is 
French, literature may be anything from English to 
Russian, architecture (save when it becomes a mere 
branch of engineering) is a maddening phantas- 
magoria of borrowings. Even so elemental an art 
as that of cookery shows no native development, and 
is greatly disesteemed by Amerioans of the Anglo- 
Saxon majority; any decent restaurant that one blun- 
ders upon in the land is likely to be French, and if 
not French, then Italian or German or Chinese. So 
with the sciences: they have scarcely any native de- 
velopment. Organized scientific research began in 
the country with the founding of the Johns Hopkins 
University, a bald imitation of the German universi- 
ties, and long held suspect by native opinion. Even 
after its great success, indeed, there was rancorous 
hostility to its scheme of things on chauvinistic 
grounds, and some years ago efforts were begun to 
Americanize it, with the result that it is now sunk to 
the level of Princeton, Amherst and other such glor- 
ified high-schools, and is dominated by native savants 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 49 

who would be laughed at in any Continental univer- 
sity. Science, oppressed by such assaults from be- 
low, moves out of the academic grove into the freer 
air of the great foundations, where the pursuit of the 
shy fact is uncontaminated by football and social 
pushing. The greatest of these foundations is the 
Rockefeller Institute. Its salient men are such in- 
vestigators as Flexner, Loeb and Carrel — all of them 
Continental Jews. 

Thus the battle of ideas in the United States is 
largely carried on under strange flags, and even the 
stray natives on the side of free inquiry have to sac- 
rifice some of their nationality when they enlist. The 
effects of this curious condition of affairs are both 
good and evil. The good ones are easily apparent. 
The racial division gives the struggle a certain des- 
perate earnestness, and even bitterness, and so makes 
it the more inviting to lively minds. It was a benefit 
to the late D. C. Gilman rather than a disadvantage 
that national opinion opposed his traffic with Huxley 
and the German professors in the early days of the 
Johns Hopkins; the stupidity of the opposition stimu- 
lated him, and made him resolute, and his resolution, 
in the long run, was of inestimable cultural value. 
Scientific research-in America, indeed, was thus set 
securely upon its legs precisely because the great 
majority of right-thinking Americans were violently 
opposed to it. In the same way it must be obvious 



50 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

that Dreiser got something valuable out of the gro- 
tesque war that was carried on against him during 
the greater war overseas because of his German 
name — a jehad fundamentally responsible for the 
suppression of "The 'Genius.' ' The chief danger 
that he ran six or seven years ago was the danger 
that he might be accepted, explained away, and so 
seduced downward to the common level. The attack 
of professional patriots saved him from that calamity. 
More, it filled him with a keen sense of his isolation, 
and stirred up the vanity that was in him as it is in 
all of us, and so made him cling with new tenacity to 
the very peculiarities that differentiate him from his 
inferiors. Finally, it is not to be forgotten that, with- 
out this rebellion of immigrant iconoclasts, the whole 
body of the national literature would tend to sink to 
the 100% American level of such patriotic literary 
business men as the president of the Authors' League. 
In other words, we must put up with the aesthetic 
Bolshevism of the Europeans and Asiatics who rage 
in the land, for without them we might not have any 
literature at all. 

But the evils of the situation are not to be gainsaid. 
One of them I have already alluded to: the tendency 
of the beginning literatus, once he becomes fully 
conscious of his foreign affiliations, to desert the re- 
public forthwith, and thereafter view it from afar, 
and as an actual foreigner. More solid and various 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 51 

cultures lure him; he finds himself uncomfortable at 
home. Sometimes, as in the case of Henry James, 
he becomes a downright expatriate, and a more or 
less active agent of anti-American feeling; more often, 
he goes over to the outlanders without yielding up his 
theoretical citizenship, as in the cases of Irving, Har- 
ris, Pound and O'Sullivan. But all this, of course, 
works relatively light damage, for not many native 
authors are footloose enough to indulge in any such 
physical desertion of the soil. Of much more evil 
importance is the tendency of the cultural alienism 
that I have described to fortify the uncontaminated 
native in his bilious suspicion of all the arts, and par- 
ticularly of all artists. The news that the latest poet 
to flutter the dovecotes is a Jew, or that the last novel- 
ist mauled by comstockery has a German or Scandi- 
navian or Russian name, or that the critic newly taken 
in sacrilege is a partisan of Viennese farce or of the 
French moral code or of English literary theory — 
this news, among a people so ill-informed, so horribly 
well-trained in flight from bugaboos, and so savagely 
suspicious of the unfamiliar in ideas, has the in- 
evitable effect of stirring up opposition that quickly 
ceases to be purely aesthetic objection, and so be- 
comes increasingly difficult to combat. If Dreiser's 
name were Tompkins or Simpson, there is no doubt 
whatever that he would affright the professors a good 
deal less, and appear less of a hobgoblin to the in- 



52 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

telligentsia of the women's clubs. If Oppenheim were 
less palpably levantine, he would come much nearer 
to the popularity of Edwin Markham and Walt 
Mason. And if Cabell kept to the patriotic business 
of a Southern gentleman, to wit, the praise of Gen- 
eral Robert E. Lee, instead of prowling the strange 
and terrible fields of mediaeval Provence, it is a safe 
wager that he would be sold openly over the counter 
instead of stealthily behind the door. 

In a previous work I have discussed this tendency 
in America to estimate the artist in terms of his sec- 
ular character. During the war, when all of the 
national defects in intelligence were enormously ac- 
centuated, it went to ludicrous lengths. There were 
then only authors who were vociferous patriots and 
thus geniuses, and authors who kept their dignity and 
were thus suspect and without virtue. By this gauge 
Chambers became the superior of Dreiser and Cabell, 
and Joyce Kilmer and Amy Lowell were set above 
Sandburg and Oppenheim. The test was even ex- 
tended to foreigners: by it H. G. Wells took prece- 
dence of Shaw, and Blasco Ibaiiez became a greater 
artist than Romain Rolland. But the thing is. not pe- 
culiar to war times; when peace is densest it is to be 
observed. The man of letters, pure and simple, is a 
rarity in America. Almost always he is something 
else — and that something else commonly determines 
his public eminence. Mark Twain, with only his 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 53 

books to recommend him, would probably have 
passed into obscurity in middle age; it was in the 
character of a public entertainer, not unrelated to 
Coxey, Dr. Mary Walker and Citizen George Francis 
Train, that he wooed and won his country. The official 
criticism of the land denied him any solid literary 
virtue to the day of his death, and even to-day the 
campus critics and their journalistic valets stand 
aghast before "The Mysterious Stranger" and "What 
is Man?" Emerson passed through almost the same 
experience. It was not as a man of letters that he 
was chiefly thought of in his time, but as the prophet 
of a new cult, half religious, half philosophical, and 
wholly unintelligible to nine-tenths of those who dis- 
cussed it. The first author of a handbook of Amer- 
ican literature to sweep away the codfish Moses and 
expose the literary artist was the Polish Jew, Leon 
Kellner, of Czernowitz. So with Whitman and Poe 
— both hobgoblins far more than artists. So, even, 
with Howells: it was as the exponent of a dying cul- 
ture that he was venerated, not as the practitioner of 
an art. Few actually read his books. His celebrity, 
of course, was real enough, but it somehow differed 
materially from that of a pure man of letters — say 
Shelley, Conrad, Hauptmann, Hardy or Synge. That 
he was himself keenly aware of the national tendency 
to judge an artist in terms of the citizen was made 
plain at the time of the Gorky scandal, when he joined 



54 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Clemens in an ignominious desertion of Gorky, scared 
out of his wits by the danger of being manhandled for 
a violation of the national pecksniffery. Howells 
also refused to sign the Dreiser Protest. The case of 
Frank Harris is one eloquently in point. Harris has 
written, among other books, perhaps the best biog- 
raphy ever done by an American. Yet his politics 
keep him in a sort of Coventry and the average Amer- 
ican critic would no more think of praising him than 
of granting Treitschke any merit as an historian. 



The Lonesome Artist 

Thus falsely judged by standards that have no in- 
telligible appositeness when applied to an artist, how- 
ever accurately they may weigh a stockbroker or a 
Presbyterian elder, and forced to meet not only the 
hunkerous indifference of the dominant mob but also 
the bitter and disingenuous opposition of the classes 
to which he might look reasonably for understanding 
and support, the American author is forced into a 
sort of social and intellectual vacuum, and lives out 
his days, as Henry James said of Hawthorne, "an 
alien everywhere, an aesthetic solitary." 

The wonder is that, in the face of so metallic and 
unyielding a front, any genuine artists in letters come 
to the front at all. But they constantly emerge; the 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 55 

first gestures are always on show; the prodigal and 
gorgeous life of the country simply forces a sensi- 
tive minority to make some attempt at representa- 
tion and interpretation, and out of many trying there 
often appears one who can. The phenomenon of 
Dreiser is not unique. He had his forerunners in 
Fuller and Frank Norris and he has his compagnons 
du voyage in Anderson, Charles G. Norris and more 
than one other. But the fact only throws up his 
curious isolation in a stronger light. It would be dif- 
ficult to imagine an artist of his sober purpose and 
high accomplishment, in any civilized country, stand- 
ing so neglected. The prevailing criticism, when it 
cannot dispose of him by denying that he exists — in 
the two chief handbooks of latter-day literature by 
professors he is not even mentioned! — seeks to dis- 
pose of him by arraying the shoddy fury of the mob 
against him. When he was under attack by the Corn- 
stocks, more than one American critic gave covert aid 
to the common enemy, and it was with difficulty that 
the weight of the Authors' League was held upon his 
side. More help for him, in fact, came from Eng- 
land, and quite voluntarily, than could be drummed 
up for him at home. No public sense of the menace 
that the attack offered to free speech and free art was 
Visible; it would have made a nine-days' sensation for 
any layman of public influence to have gone to his 
rescue, as would have certainly happened in France, 



56 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

England or Germany. As for the newspaper-reading 
mob, it probably went unaware of the business alto- 
gether. When Arnold Bennett, landing in New York 
some time previously, told the reporters that Dreiser 
was the American he most desired to meet, the news 
was quite unintelligible to perhaps nine readers out 
of ten: they had no more heard of Dreiser than their 
fathers had heard of Whitman in 1875. 

So with all the rest. I have mentioned Harris. It 
would be difficult to imagine Rolland meeting such a 
fate in France or Shaw in England as he has met in 
the United States. O'Sullivan, during the war, came 
home with "A Good Girl" in his pocket. The book 
was republished here — and got vastly less notice than 
the latest piece of trade-goods by Kathleen Norris. 
Fuller, early in his career, gave it up as hopeless. 
Norris died vainly battling for the young Dreiser. 
An Abraham Cahan goes unnoticed. Miss Cather, 
with four sound books behind her, lingers in the twi- 
light of an esoteric reputation. Cabell, comstocked, 
is apprehended by his country only as a novelist to 
be bought by stealth and read in private. When 
Hugh Walpole came to America a year or two ago 
he favored the newspapers, like Bennett before him, 
with a piece of critical news that must have puzzled 
all readers save a very small minority. Discussing 
the living American novelists worth heeding, he nomi- 
nated three — and of them only one was familiar to 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 57 

the general run of novel-buyers, or had ever been 
mentioned by a native critic of the apostolic succes- 
sion. Only the poets of the land seem to attract the 
notice of the professors, and no doubt this is largely 
because most of the more salient of them — notably 
Miss Lowell and Lindsay — are primarily press- 
agents. Even so, the attention that they get is seldom 
serious. The only professor that I know of who has 
discussed the matter in precise terms holds that Alfred 
Noyes is the superior of all of them. Moreover, the 
present extraordinary interest in poetry stops short 
with a few poets, and one of its conspicuous phe- 
nomena is its lack of concern with the poets outside 
the movement, some of them unquestionably superior 
to any within. 

Nor is this isolation of the artist in America new. 
The contemporary view of Poe and Whitman was al- 
most precisely like the current view of Dreiser and 
Cabell. Both were neglected by the Brahmins of 
their time, and both were regarded hostilely by the 
great body of right-thinking citizens. Poe, indeed, 
was the victim of a furious attack by Rufus W. Gris- 
wold, the Hamilton Wright Mabie of the time, and it 
set the tone of native criticism for years. Whitman, 
living, narrowly escaped going to jail as a public 
nuisance. One thinks of Hawthorne and Emerson as 
writers decently appreciated by their contemporar- 
ies, but it is not to be forgotten that the official 



58 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

criticism of the era saw no essential difference be- 
tween Hawthorne and Cooper, and that Emerson's 
reputation, to the end of his life, was far more that 
of a theological prophet and ethical platitudinarian, 
comparable to Lyman Abbott or Frank Crane, than 
that of a literary artist, comparable to Tennyson or 
Matthew Arnold. Perhaps Carlyle understood him, 
but who in America understood him? To this day 
he is the victim of gross misrepresentation by en- 
thusiasts who read into him all sorts of flatulent bom- 
bast, as Puritanism is read into the New Testament 
by Methodists. As for Hawthorne, his extraordinary 
physical isolation during his lifetime was but the sym- 
bol of a complete isolation of the spirit, still surviv- 
ing. If his preference for the internal conflict as 
opposed to the external act were not sufficient to set 
him off from the main stream of American specula- 
tion, there would always be his profound ethical skep- 
ticism — a state of mind quite impossible to the nor- 
mal American, at least of Anglo-Saxon blood. Haw- 
thorne, so far as T know, has never had a single pro- 
fessed follower in his own country. Even his son, 
attempting to carry on his craft, yielded neither to his 
meticulous method nor to his detached point of view. 
In the third generation, with infinite irony, there is a 
grand-daughter who is a reviewer of books for the 
New York Times, which is almost as if Wagner should 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 59 

have a grand-daughter singing in the operas of Mas- 
senet. 

Of the four indubitable masters thus named, Haw- 
thorne, Emerson, Whitman and Poe, only the last two 
have been sufficiently taken into the consciousness of 
the country to have any effect upon its literature, and 
even here that influence has been exerted only at 
second-hand, and against very definite adverse pres- 
sure. It would certainly seem reasonable for a man 
of so forceful a habit of mind as Poe, and of such 
prodigal and arresting originality, to have founded a 
school, but a glance at the record shows that he did 
nothing of the sort. Immediately he was dead, the 
shadows of the Irving tradition closed around his 
tomb, and for nearly thirty years thereafter all of his 
chief ideas went disregarded in his own country. If, 
as the literature books argue, Poe was the father of the 
American short story, then it was a posthumous child, 
and had step-fathers who did their best to conceal its 
true parentage. When it actually entered upon the 
vigorous life that we know to-day Poe had been dead 
for a generation. Its father, at the time of its be- 
lated adolescence, seemed to be Bret Harte — and 
Harte's debt to Dickens was vastly more apparent, 
first and last, than his debt to Poe. What he got 
from Poe was essenfial; it was the inner structure of 
the modern short story, the fundamental devices 



60 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

whereby a mere glimpse at events could be made to 
yield brilliant and seemingly complete images. But 
he himself was probably largely unaware of this in- 
debtedness. A man little given to critical analysis, 
and incompetent for it when his own work was under 
examination, he saw its externals much more clearly 
than he saw its intrinsic organization, and these ex- 
ternals bore the plain marks of Dickens. It re- 
mained for one of his successors, Ambrose Bierce, to 
bridge belatedly the space separating him from Poe, 
and so show the route that he had come. And it re- 
mained for foreign criticism, and particularly for 
French criticism, to lift Poe himself to the secure 
place that he now holds. It is true enough that he 
enjoyed, during his lifetime, a certain popular repu- 
tation, and that he was praised by such men as N. P. 
Willis and James Russell Lowell, but that reputation 
was considerably less than the fame of men who were 
much his inferiors, and that praise, especially in 
Lowell's case, was much corrupted by reservations. 
Not many native critics of respectable position, dur- 
ing the 50's and 60's, would have ranked him clearly 
above, say, Irving or Cooper, or even above Long- 
fellow, his old enemy. A few partisans argued for 
him, but in the main, as Saintsbury has said, he was 
the victim of "extreme and almost incomprehensible 
injustice" at the hands of his countrymen. It is 
surely not without significance that it took ten years 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 61 

to raise money enough to put a cheap and hideous 
tombstone upon his neglected grave, that it was not 
actually set up until he had been dead twenty-six 
years, that no contemporary American writer took 
any part in furthering the project, and that the only 
one who attended the final ceremony was Whitman. 
It was Baudelaire's French translation of the prose 
tales and Mallarme's translation of the poems that 
brought Poe to Valhalla. The former, first printed 
in 1856, founded the Poe cult in France, and during 
the two decades following it flourished amazingly, 
and gradually extended to England and Germany. It 
was one of the well-springs, in fact, of the whole so- 
called decadent movement. If Baudelaire, the fa- 
ther of that movement, "cultivated hysteria with de- 
light and terror," he was simply doing what Poe had 
done before him. Both, reacting against the false 
concept of beauty as a mere handmaiden of logical 
ideas, sought its springs in those deep feelings and 
inner experiences which lie beyond the range of ideas 
and are to be interpreted only as intuitions. Emer- 
son started upon the same quest, but was turned off 
into mazes of contradiction and unintelligibility by 
his ethical obsession- — the unescapable burden of his 
Puritan heritage. But Poe never wandered from the 
path. You will find in "The Poetic Principle" what 
is perhaps the clearest statement of this new and 
sounder concept of beauty that has ever been made — 



62 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

certainly it is clearer than any ever made by a French- 
man. But it was not until Frenchmen had watered 
the seed out of grotesque and vari-colored pots that it 
began to sprout. The tide of Poe's ideas, set in 
motion in France early in the second half of the 
century, did not wash England until the last de- 
cade, and in America, save for a few dashes of 
spray, it has yet to show itself. There is no 
American writer who displays the influence of 
this most potent and original of Americans so 
clearly as whole groups of Frenchmen display it, 
and whole groups of Germans, and even a good many 
Englishmen. What we have from Poe at first hand 
is simply a body of obvious yokel-shocking in the 
Black Cat manner, with the tales of Ambrose Bierce 
as its finest flower — in brief, an imitation of Poe's 
externals without any comprehension whatever of his 
underlying aims and notions. What we have from 
him at second-hand is a somewhat childish Maeter- 
linckism, a further dilution of Poe-and-water. This 
Maeterlinckism, some time ago, got itself inter- 
mingled with the Whitmanic stream flowing back to 
America through the channel of French Imagism, with 
results destructive to the sanity of earnest critics and 
fatal to the gravity of those less austere. It is sig- 
nificant that the critical writing of Poe, in which there 
lies most that was best in him, has not come back; 
no normal American ever thinks of him as a critic, 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 63 

but only as a poet, as a raiser of goose-flesh, or as an 
immoral fellow. The cause thereof is plain enough. 
The French, instead of borrowing his critical theory 
directly, deduced it afresh from his applications of it; 
it became criticism of him rather than by him. Thus 
his own speculations have lacked the authority of 
foreign approval, and have consequently made no im- 
pression. The weight of native opinion is naturally 
against them, for they are at odds, not only with its 
fundamental theories, but also with its practical doc- 
trine that no criticism can be profound and respect- 
able which is not also dull. 

"Poe," says Arthur Ransome, in his capital study 
of the man and the artist, "was like a wolf chained 
by the leg among a lot of domestic dogs." The simile 
here is somewhat startling, and Ransome, in a foot- 
note, tries to ameliorate it: the "domestic dogs" it 
refers to were magnificoes of no less bulk than Long- 
fellow, Whittier, Holmes and Emerson. In the case 
of Whitman, the wolf was not only chained, but also 
muzzled. Nothing, indeed, could be more amazing 
than the hostility that surrounded him at home until 
the very end of his long life. True enough, it was 
broken by certain feeble mitigations. Emerson, in 
1855, praised him — though later very eager to forget 
it and desert him, as Clemens and Howells, years af- 
terward, deserted Gorky. Alcott, Thoreau, Lowell 
and even Bryant, during his brief Bohemian days, 



64 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

were polite to him. A group of miscellaneous en- 
thusiasts gradually gathered about him, and out of 
this group emerged at least one man of some distinc- 
tion, John Burroughs. Young adventurers of let- 
ters — for example, Huneker — went to see him, and 
hear him, half drawn by genuine admiration ancf half 
by mere deviltry. But the general tone of the opinion 
that beat upon him, the attitude of domestic criticism, 
was unbrokenly inimical; he was opposed by misrep- 
resentation and neglect. "The prevailing range of 
criticism on my book," he wrote in "A Backward 
Glance on My Own Road" in 1884, "has been either 
mockery or denunciation— and ... I have been the 
marked object of two or three (to me pretty serious) 
official buffetings." "After thirty years of trial," he 
wrote in "My Book and I," three years later, "public 
criticism on the book and myself as author of it shows 
marked anger and contempt more than anything else." 
That is, at home. Abroad he was making headway 
all the while, and long years afterward, by way of 
France and England, he began to force his way into 
the consciousness of his countrymen. What could 
have been more ironical than the solemn celebrations 
of Whitman's centenary that were carried off in 
various American universities in 1919? One can 
picture the old boy rolling with homeric mirth in 
hell. Imagine the fate of a university don of 1860, 
or 1870, or 1880, or even 1890 who had ventured to 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 65 

commend "Leaves of Grass" to the young gentlemen 
of his seminary! He would have come to grief as 
swiftly as that Detroit pedagogue of day before yes- 
terday who brought down the Mothers' Legion upon 
him by commending "Jurgen." 

8 

The Cultural Background 

So far, the disease. As to the cause, I have de- 
livered a few hints. I now describe it particularly. 
It is, in brief, a defect in the general culture of the 
country — -one reflected, not only in the national lit- 
erature, but also in the national political theory, the 
national attitude toward religion and morals, the na- 
tional habit in all departments of thinking. It is the 
lack of a civilized aristocracy, secure in its position, 
animated by an intelligent curiosity, skeptical of all 
facile generalizations, superior to the sentimentality 
of the mob, and delighting in the battle of ideas for 
its own sake. 

The word I use, despite the qualifying adjective, 
has got itself meanings, of course, that I by no means 
intend to convey. Any mention of an aristocracy, to 
a public fed upon democratic fustian, is bound to 
bring up images of -stockbrokers' wives lolling ob- 
scenely in opera boxes, or of haughty Englishmen 
slaughtering whole generations of grouse in an in- 



66 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ordinate and incomprehensible manner, or of Junkers 
with tight waists elbowing American schoolmarms off 
the sidewalks of German beer towns, or of perfumed 
Italians coming over to work their abominable magic 
upon the daughters of breakfast-food and bathtub 
kings. Part of this misconception, I suppose, has its 
roots in the gaudy imbecilities of the yellow press, 
but there is also a part that belongs to the general 
American tradition, along with the oppression of mi- 
norities and the belief in political panaceas. Its depth 
and extent are constantly revealed by the naive as- 
sumption that the so-called fashionable folk of the 
large cities — chiefly wealthy industrials in the inte- 
rior-decorator and country-club stage of culture — con- 
stitute an aristocracy, and by the scarcely less remark- 
able assumption that the peerage of England is iden- 
tical with the gentry — that is, that such men as Lord 
Northcliffe, Lord Iveagh and even Lord Reading are 
English gentlemen, and of the ancient line of the 
Percys. 

Here, as always, the worshiper is the father of the 
gods, and no less when they are evil than when they 
are benign. The inferior man must find himself 
superiors, that he may marvel at his political equality 
with them, and in the absence of recognizable supe- 
riors de facto he creates superiors de jure. The sub- 
lime principle of one man, one vote must be trans- 
lated into terms of dollars, diamonds, fashionable in- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 67 

telligence; the equality of all men before the law must 
have clear and dramatic proofs. Sometimes, per- 
haps, the thing goes further and is more subtle. The 
inferior man needs an aristocracy to demonstrate, 
not only his mere equality, but also his actual su- 
periority. The society columns in the newspapers 
may have some such origin: they may visualize once 
more the accomplished journalist's understanding of 
the mob mind that he plays upon so skillfully, as upon 
some immense and cacophonous organ, always going 
fortissimo. What the inferior man and his wife see 
in the sinister revels of those amazing first families, 
I suspect, is often a massive witness to their own 
higher rectitude — to their relative innocence of cigar- 
ette-smoking, poodle-coddling, child-farming and the 
more abstruse branches of adultery — in brief, to their 
firmer grasp upon the immutable axioms of Christian 
virtue, the one sound boast of the nether nine-tenths 
of humanity in every land under the cross. 

But this bugaboo aristocracy, as I hint, is actually 
bogus, and the evidence of its bogusness lies in the 
fact that it is insecure. One gets into it only oner- 
ously, but out of it very easily. Entrance is effected 
by dint of a long and bitter struggle, and the chief 
incidents of that struggle are almost intolerable 
humiliations. The aspirant must school and steel 
himself to sniffs and sneers; he must see the door 
slammed upon him a hundred times before ever it 



68 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

is thrown open to him. To get in at all he must 
show a talent for abasement — and abasement makes 
him timorous. Worse, that timorousness is not cured 
when he succeeds at last. On the contrary, it is made 
even more tremulous, for what he faces within the 
gates is a scheme of things made up almost wholly of 
harsh and often unintelligible taboos, and the penalty 
for violating even the least of them is swift and dis- 
astrous. He must exhibit exactly the right social hab- 
its, appetites and prejudices, public and private. He 
must harbor exactly the right political enthusiasms 
and indignations. He must have a hearty taste for 
exactly the right sports. His attitude toward the fine 
arts must be properly tolerant and yet not a shade too 
eager. He must read and like exactly the right 
books, pamphlets and public journals. He must put 
up at the right hotels when he travels. His wife must 
patronize the right milliners. He himself must stick 
to the right haberdashery. He must live in the right 
neighborhood. He must even embrace the right doc- 
trines of religion. It would ruin him, for all opera 
box and society column purposes, to set up a plea for 
justice to the Bolsheviki, or even for ordinary de- 
cency. It would ruin him equally to wear celluloid 
collars, or to move to Union Hill, N. J., or to serve 
ham and cabbage at his table. And it would ruin 
him, too, to drink coffee from his saucer, or to marry 
a chambermaid with a gold tooth, or to join the Sev- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 69 

enth Day Adventists. Within the boundaries of his 
curious order he is worse fettered than a monk in a 
cell. Its obscure conception of propriety, its nebu- 
lous notion that this or that is honorable, hampers him 
in every direction, and very narrowly. What he re- 
signs when he enters, even when he makes his first 
deprecating knock at the door, is every right to at- 
tack the ideas that happen to prevail within. Such 
as they are, he must accept them without question. 
And as they shift and change in response to great in- 
stinctive movements (or perhaps, now and then, to the 
punished but not to be forgotten revolts of extraordi- 
nary rebels) he must shift and change with them, si- 
lently and quickly. To hang back, to challenge and 
dispute, to preach reforms and revolutions — these are 
crimes against the brummagen Holy Ghost of the 
order. 

Obviously, that order cannot constitute a genuine 
aristocracy, in any rational sense. A genuine aris- 
tocracy is grounded upon very much different princi- 
ples. Its first and most salient character is its in- 
terior security, and the chief visible evidence of that 
security is the freedom that goes with it — not only 
freedom in act, the divine right of the aristocrat to 
do what he jolly well pleases, so long as he does not 
violate the primary guarantees and obligations of his 
class, but also and more importantly freedom in 
thought, the liberty to try and err, the right to be his 



70 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

own man. It is the instinct of a true aristocracy, not 
to punish eccentricity by expulsion, but to throw a 
mantle of protection about it — to safeguard it from 
the suspicions and resentments of the lower orders. 
Those lower orders are inert, timid, inhospitable to 
ideas, hostile to changes, faithful to a few maudlin 
superstitions. All progress goes on on the higher lev- 
els. It is there that salient personalities, made secure 
by artificial immunities, may oscillate most widely 
from the normal track. It is within that entrenched 
fold, out of reach of the immemorial certainties of the 
mob, that extraordinary men of the lower orders 
may find their city of refuge, and breathe a clear air. 
This, indeed, is at once the hall-mark and the justifica- 
tion of an aristocracy — that it is beyond responsibility 
to the general masses of men, and hence superior to 
both their degraded longings and their no less de- 
graded aversions. It is nothing if it is not autono- 
mous, curious, venturesome, courageous, and every- 
thing if it is. It is the custodian of the qualities 
that make for change and experiment; it is the class 
that organizes danger to the service of the race; it 
pays for its high prerogatives by standing in the fore- 
front of the fray. 

No such aristocracy, it must be plain, is now on 
view in the United States. The makings of one were 
visible in the Virginia of the later eighteenth cen- 
tury, but with Jefferson and Washington the promise 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 71 

died. In New England, it seems to me, there was 
never any aristocracy, either in being or in nascency: 
there was only a theocracy that degenerated very 
quickly into a plutocracy on the one hand and a caste 
of sterile Gelehrten on the other — the passion for God 
splitting into a lust for dollars and a weakness for 
mere words. Despite the common notion to the con- 
trary — a notion generated by confusing literacy with 
intelligence — New England has never shown the 
slightest sign of a genuine enthusiasm for ideas. It 
began its history as a slaughter-house of ideas, and it 
is to-day not easily distinguishable from a cold-stor- 
age plant. Its celebrated adventures in mysticism, 
once apparently so bold and significant, are now seen 
to have been little more than an elaborate hocus-pocus 
— respectable Unitarians shocking the peasantry and 
scaring the horned cattle in the fields by masquerad- 
ing in the robes of Roscicrucians. The ideas that it 
embraced in those austere and far-off days were stale, 
and when it had finished with them they were dead: 
to-day one hears of Jakob Bohme almost as rarely as 
one hears of Allen G. Thurman. So in politics. Its 
glory is Abolition — an English invention, long under 
the interdict of the native plutocracy. Since the Civil 
War its six states have produced fewer political ideas, 
as political ideas run in the Republic, than any aver- 
age county in Kansas or Nebraska. Appomattox 
seemed to be a victory for New England idealism. It 



72 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

was actually a victory for the New England plutoc- 
racy, and that plutocracy has dominated thought 
above the Housatonic ever since. The sect of profes- 
sional idealists has so far dwindled that it has ceased 
to be of any importance, even as an opposition. 
When the plutocracy is challenged now, it is chal- 
lenged by the proletariat. 

Well, what is on view in New England is on view 
in all other parts of the nation, sometimes with 
ameliorations, but usually with the colors merely ex- 
aggerated. What one beholds, sweeping the eye over 
the land, is a culture that, like the national literature, 
is in three layers — the plutocracy on top, a vast mass 
of undifferentiated human blanks at the bottom, and 
a forlorn intelligentsia gasping out a precarious life 
between. I need not set out at any length, I hope, 
the intellectual deficiencies of the plutocracy — its ut- 
ter failure to show anything even remotely resembling 
the makings of an aristocracy. It is badly educated, 
it is stupid, it is full of low-caste superstitions and 
indignations, it is without decent traditions or inform- 
ing vision; above all, it is extraordinarily lacking in 
the most elemental independence and courage. Out 
of this class comes the grotesque fashionable society 
of our big towns, already described. Imagine a 
horde of peasants incredibly enriched and with al- 
most infinite power thrust into their hands, and you 
will have a fair picture of its habitual state of mind. 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 73 

It shows all the stigmata of inferiority — moral cer- 
tainty, cruelty, suspicion of ideas, fear. Never did it 
function more revealingly than in the late pogrom 
against the so-called Reds, i. e., against humorless 
idealists who, like Andrew Jackson, took the plati- 
tudes of democracy quite seriously. The machinery- 
brought to bear upon these feeble and scattered fa- 
natics would have almost sufficed to repel an invasion 
by the united powers of Europe. They were hunted 
out of their sweat-shops and coffee-houses as if they 
were so many Carranzas or Ludendorffs, dragged to 
jail to the tooting of horns, arraigned before quaking 
judges on unintelligible charges, condemned to depor- 
tation without the slightest chance to defend them : 
selves, torn from their dependent families, herded 
into prison-ships, and then finally dumped in a snow 
waste, to be rescued and fed by the Bolsheviki. And 
what was the theory at the bottom of all these astoun- 
ing proceedings? So far as it can be reduced to com- 
prehensible terms it was much less a theory than a 
fear — a shivering, idiotic, discreditable fear of a 
mere banshee — an overpowering, paralyzing dread 
that some extra-eloquent Red, permitted to emit his 
balderdash unwhipped, might eventually convert a 
couple of courageous men, and that the courageous 
men, filled with indignation against the plutocracy, 
might take to the highroad, burn down a nail-factory 
or two, and slit the throat of some virtuous profiteer. 



74 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

In order to lay this fear, in order to ease the jangled 
nerves of the American successors to the Hapsburgs 
and Hohenzollerns, all the constitutional guarantees 
of the citizen were suspended, the statute-books were 
burdened with laws that surpass anything heard of 
in the Austria of Maria Theresa, the country was 
handed over to a frenzied mob of detectives, inform- 
ers and agents provocateurs — and the Reds departed 
laughing loudly, and were hailed by the Bolsheviki 
as innocents escaped from an asylum for the crim- 
inally insane. 

Obviously, it is out of reason to look for any hospi- 
tality to ideas in a class so extravagantly fearful of 
even the most palpably absurd of them. Its philos- 
ophy is firmly grounded upon the thesis that the ex- 
isting order must stand forever free from attack, and 
not only from attack, but also from mere academic 
criticism, and its ethics are as firmly grounded upon 
the thesis that every attempt at any such criticism is 
a proof of moral turpitude. Within its own ranks, 
protected by what may be regarded as the privilege 
of the order, there is nothing to take the place of this 
criticism. A few feeble platitudes by Andrew Car- 
negie and a book of moderate merit by John D. Rock- 
efeller's press-agent constitute almost the whole of 
the interior literature of ideas. In other countries 
the plutocracy has often produced men of reflective 
and analytical habit, eager to rationalize its instincts 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 75 

and to bring it into some sort of relationship to the 
main streams of human thought. The case of David 
Ricardo at once comes to mind. There have been 
many others: John Bright, Richard Cobden, George 
Grote, and, in our own time, Walther von Rathenau. 
But in the United States no such phenomenon has been 
visible. There was a day, not long ago, when cer- 
tain young men of wealth gave signs of an unaccus- 
tomed interest in ideas on the political side, but the 
most they managed to achieve was a banal sort of 
Socialism, and even this was abandoned in sudden 
terror when the war came, and Socialism fell under 
suspicion of being genuinely international — in brief, 
of being honest under the skin. Nor has the plutoc- 
racy of the country ever fostered an inquiring spirit 
among its intellectual valets and footmen, which is to 
say, among the gentlemen who compose headlines and 
leading articles for its newspapers. What chiefly 
distinguishes the daily press of the United States from 
the press of all other countries pretending to culture 
is not its lack of truthfulness or even its lack of dig- 
nity and honor, for these deficiencies are common to 
the newspapers everywhere, but its incurable fear of 
ideas, its constant effort to evade the discussion of 
fundamentals by translating all issues into a few 
elemental fears, its incessant reduction of all reflec- 
tion to mere emotion. It is, in the true sense, never 
well-informed. It is seldom intelligent, save in the 



16 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

arts of the mob-master. It is never courageously- 
honest. Held harshly to a rigid correctness of opin- 
ion by the plutocracy that controls it with less and less 
attempt at disguise, and menaced on all sides by 
censorships that it dare not flout, it sinks rapidly into 
formalism and feebleness. Its yellow section is per- 
haps its most respectable section, for there the only 
vestige of the old free journalist survives. In the 
more conservative papers one finds only a timid and 
petulant animosity to all questioning of the existing 
order, however urbane and sincere — a pervasive and 
ill-concealed dread that the mob now heated up 
against the orthodox hobgoblins may suddenly begin 
to unearth hobgoblins of its own, and so run amok. 
For it is upon the emotions of the mob, of course, that 
the whole comedy is played. Theoretically the mob 
is the repository of all political wisdom and virtue; 
actually it is the ultimate source of all political power. 
Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, 
or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business 
of keeping it in order must be done discreetly, warily, 
with delicate technique. In the main that business 
consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears — of 
strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed 
gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities. 
The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of 
all the simpler mammals, is fear — fear of the un- 
known, the complex, the inexplicable. What he 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 77 

wants beyond everything else is safety. His instincts 
incline him toward a society so organized that it will 
protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils 
to his hide but also against assaults upon his mind — 
against the need to grapple with unaccustomed prob- 
lems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for himself, 
to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday 
thinking is based. Content under kaiserism so long 
as it functions efficiently, he turns, when kaiserism 
falls, to some other and perhaps worse form of pater- 
nalism, bringing to its benign tyranny only the docile 
tribute of his pathetic allegiance. In America it is 
the newspaper that is his boss. From it he gets sup- 
port for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a vis- 
ible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. 
Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, 
his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the 
unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the 
plutocracy, ignorant, unimaginative and timorous. 

Thus at the top and at the bottom. Obviously, 
there is no aristocracy here. One finds only one of 
the necessary elements, and that only in the plutoc- 
racy, to wit, a truculent egoism. But where is in- 
telligence? Where are ease and surety of manner? 
Where are enterprise and ^curiosity? Where, above 
all, is courage, and in particular, moral courage — the 
capacity for independent thinking, for difficult prob- 
lems, for what Nietzsche called the joys of the laby- 



78 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

rinth? As well look for these things in a society of 
half-wits. Democracy, obliterating the old aristoc- 
racy, has left only a vacuum in its place ; in a century 
and a half it has failed either to lift up the mob to 
intellectual autonomy and dignity or to purge the 
plutocracy of its inherent stupidity and swinishness. 
It is precisely here, the first and favorite scene of the 
Great Experiment, that the culture of the individual 
has been reduced to the most rigid and absurd regi- 
mentation. It is precisely here, of all civilized coun- 
tries, that eccentricity in demeanor and opinion has 
come to bear the heaviest penalties. The whole drift 
of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all 
ideas that diverge in the slightest from the accepted 
platitudes, and behind that drift of law there is a far 
more potent force of growing custom, and under that 
custom there is a national philosophy which erects 
conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free 
functioning of personality into a capital crime against 
society. 

9 

Under the Campus Pump 

But there remain the intelligentsia, the free spirits 
in the middle ground, neither as anaesthetic to ideas 
as the plutocracy on the one hand nor as much the 
slaves of emotion as the proletariat on the other. 
Have I forgotten them? I have not. But what ac- 



TEE NATIONAL LETTERS 79 

tually reveals itself when this small brotherhood of 
the superior is carefully examined? What reveals 
itself, it seems to me, is a gigantic disappointment. 
Superficially, there are all the marks of a caste of 
learned and sagacious men — a great book-knowledge, 
a laudable diligence, a certain fine reserve and snif- 
fishness, a plain consciousness of intellectual superior- 
ity, not a few gestures that suggest the aristocratic. 
But under the surface one quickly discovers that the 
whole thing is little more than play-acting, and not 
always very skillful. Learning is there, but not curi- 
osity. A heavy dignity is there, but not much gen- 
uine self-respect. Pretentiousness is there, but not a 
trace of courage. Squeezed between the plutocracy 
on on side and the mob on the other, the intelligentsia 
face the eternal national problem of maintaining their 
position, of guarding themselves against challenge 
and attack, of keeping down suspicion. They have 
all the attributes of knowledge save the sense of 
power. They have all the qualities of an aristocracy 
save the capital qualities that arise out of a feeling of 
security, of complete independence, of absolute im- 
munity to onslaught from above and below. In 
brief, the old bogusness hangs about them, as about 
the fashionable aristocrats * of the society columns. 
They are safe so long as they are good, which is to 
say, so long as they neither aggrieve the plutocracy 
nor startle the proletariat. Immediately they fall 



80 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

into either misdemeanor all their apparent dignity 
vanishes, and with it all of their influence, and they 
become simply somewhat ridiculous rebels against a 
social order that has no genuine need of them and is 
disposed to tolerate them only when they are not ob- 
trusive. 

For various reasons this shadowy caste is largely 
made up of men who have official stamps upon their 
learning — that is, of professors, of doctors of philos- 
ophy; outside of academic circles it tends to shade 
off very rapidly into a half-world of isolated an- 
archists. One of those reasons is plain enough: the 
old democratic veneration for mere schooling, in- 
herited from the Puritans of New England, is still in 
being, and the mob, always eager for short cuts in 
thinking, is disposed to accept a schoolmaster without 
looking beyond his degree. Another reason lies in 
the fact that the higher education is still rather a 
novelty in the country, and there have yet to be de- 
veloped any devices for utilizing learned men in any 
trade save teaching. Yet other reasons will suggest 
themselves. Whatever the ramification of causes, the 
fact is plain that the pedagogues have almost a mo- 
nopoly of what passes for the higher thinking in the 
land. Not only do they reign unchallenged in their 
own chaste grove; they also penetrate to all other 
fields of ratiocination, to the almost complete exclu- 
sion of unshrived rivals. They dominate the week- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 81 

lies of opinion; they are to the fore in every review; 
they write nine-tenths of the serious books of the 
country; they begin to invade the newspapers; they 
instruct and exhort the yokelry from the stump; they 
have even begun to penetrate into the government. 
One cannot turn in the United States without encount- 
ering a professor. There is one on every municipal 
commission. There is one in every bureau of the 
federal government. There is one at the head of 
every intellectual movement. There is one to explain 
every new mystery. Professors appraise all works of 
art, whether graphic, tonal or literary. Professors 
supply the brain power for agriculture, diplomacy, 
the control of dependencies and the distribution of 
commodities. A professor was until lately sovereign 
of the country, and pope of the state church. 

So much for their opportunity. What, now, of 
their achievement? I answer as one who has had 
thrown upon him, by the impenetrable operations of 
fate, the rather thankless duties of a specialist in the 
ways of pedagogues, a sort of professor of profes- 
sors. The job has got me enemies. I have been ac- 
cused of carrying on a defamatory jehad against vir- 
tuous and laborious men; I have even been charged 
with doing it in the interest of the Wilhelmstrasse, 
the White Slave Trust and the ghost of Friedrich 
Wilhelm Nietzsche. Nothing could be more absurd. 
All my instincts are on the side of the professors. I 



82 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

esteem a man who devotes himself to a subject with 
hard diligence; I esteem even more a man who puts 
poverty and a shelf of books above profiteering and 
evenings of jazz; I am naturally monkish. More- 
over, there are more Ph.D.'s on my family tree than 
even a Boston bluestocking can boast; there was a 
whole century when even the most ignorant of my 
house was at least Juris utriusque Doctor. But such 
predispositions should not be permitted to color sober 
researches. What I have found, after long and ar- 
duous labors, is a state of things that is surely not al- 
together flattering to the Gelehrten under examination. 
What I have found, in brief, is that pedagogy turned 
to general public uses is almost as timid and flatulent 
as journalism — that the professor, menaced by the 
timid dogmatism of the plutocracy above him and 
the incurable suspiciousness of the mob beneath him, 
is almost invariably inclined to seek his own security 
in a mellifluous inanity — that, far from being a cour- 
ageous spokesman of ideas and an apostle of their 
free dissemination, in politics, in the fine arts, in prac- 
tical ethics, he comes close to being the most prudent 
and skittish of all men concerned with them — in brief, 
that he yields to the prevailing correctness of thought 
in all departments, north, east, south and west, and is, 
in fact, the chief exponent among us of the democratic 
doctrine that heresy is not only a mistake, but also a 
crime. 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 83 

A philosophy is not put to much of a test in ordi- 
nary times, for in ordinary times philosophies are 
permitted to lie like sleeping dogs. When it shows 
its inward metal is when the band begins to play. 
The turmoils of the late lamentable war, it seems to 
me, provided for such a trying out of fundamental 
ideas and attitudes upon a colossal scale. The whole 
thinking of the world was thrown into confusion; all 
the worst fears and prejudices of ignorant and emo- 
tional men came to the front; it was a time, beyond 
all others in modern history, when intellectual in- 
tegrity was subjected to a cruel strain. How did the 
intelligentsia of These States bear up under that 
strain? What was the reaction of our learned men 
to the challenge of organized hysteria, mob fear, in- 
citement to excess, downright insanity? How did 
they conduct themselves in that universal whirlwind? 
They conducted themselves, I fear, in a manner that 
must leave a brilliant question mark behind their 
claim to independence and courage, to true knowledge 
and dignity, to ordinary self-respect — in brief, to 
every quality that belongs to the authentic aristocrat. 
They constituted themselves, not a restraining influ- 
ence upon the mob run wild, but the loudest spokes- 
men of its worst imbecilities. They fed it with bogus 
history, bogus philosophy, bogus idealism, bogus hero- 
ics. They manufactured blather for its entertain- 
ment. They showed themselves to be as naive as so 



84 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

many Liberty Loan orators, as emotional, almost, as 
the spy hunters, and as disdainful of the ordinary 
intellectual decencies as the editorial writers. I ac- 
cumulated, in those great days, for the instruction and 
horror of posterity, a very large collection of aca- 
demic arguments, expositions and pronunciamentos ; 
it fills a trunk, and got me heavily into debt to three 
clipping-bureaux. Its contents range from solemn 
hymns of hate in the learned (and even the theolog- 
ical) reviews and such official donkeyisms as the for- 
mal ratification of the so-called Sisson documents 
down to childish harangues to student-bodies, public 
demands that the study of the enemy language and 
literature be prohibited by law, violent denunciations 
of all enemy science as negligible and fraudulent, 
vitriolic attacks upon enemy magnificos, and elaborate 
proofs that the American Revolution was the result of 
a foul plot hatched in the Wilhelmstrasse of the time, 
to the wanton injury of two loving bands of brothers. 
I do not exaggerate in the slightest. The proceedings 
of Mr. Creel's amazing corps of "twenty-five hundred 
American historians" went further than anything I 
have described. And in every far-flung college town, 
in every one-building "university" on the prairie, 
even the worst efforts of those "historians" were vastly 
exceeded. 

But I am forgetting the like phenomena on the 
other side of the bloody chasm? I am overlooking 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 85 

the darker crimes of the celebrated German profes- 
sors? Not at all. Those crimes against all reason 
and dignity, had they been committed in fact, would 
not be evidence in favor of the Americans in the dock: 
the principle of law is too well accepted to need argu- 
ment. But I venture to deny them, and out of a very 
special and singular knowledge, for I seem to be 
one of the few Americans who has ever actually read 
the proclamations of the German professors: all the 
most indignant critics of them appear to have ac- 
cepted second-hand accounts of their contents. Hav- 
ing suffered the onerous labor of reading them, I 
now offer sworn witness to their relative mildness. 
Now and then one encounters in them a disconcerting 
bray. Now and then one weeps with sore heart. 
Now and then one is bogged in German made wholly 
unintelligible by emotion. But taking them as they 
stand, and putting them fairly beside the correspond- 
ing documents of American vintage, one is at once 
struck by their comparative suavity and decorum, 
their freedom from mere rhetoric and fustian — above 
all, by their effort to appeal to reason, such as it is, 
rather than to emotion. No German professor, from 
end to end of the war, put his hand to anything as 
transparently silly as the Sisson documents. No Ger- 
man professor essayed to prove that the Seven Years' 
War was caused by Downing Street. No German 
professor argued that the study of English would 



86 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

corrupt the soul. No German professor denounced 
Darwin as an ignoramus and Lister as a scoundrel. 
Nor was anything of the sort done, so far as I 
know, by any French professor. Nor even by 
any reputable English professor. All such honor- 
able efforts on behalf of correct thought in war- 
time were monopolized by American professors. 
And if the fact is disputed, then I threaten upon 
some future day, when the stealthy yearning to 
forget has arisen, to print my proofs in parallel col- 
umns — the most esteemed extravagances of the Ger- 
man professors in one column and the corresponding 
masterpieces of the American professors in the other. 
I do not overlook, of course, the self-respecting men 
who, in the midst of all the uproar, kept their counsel 
and their dignity. A small minority, hard beset and 
tested by the fire! Nor do I overlook the few senti- 
mental fanatics who, in the face of devastating evi- 
dence to the contrary, proceeded upon the assumption 
that academic freedom was yet inviolable, and so got 
themselves cashiered, and began posturing in radical 
circles as martyrs, the most absurd of men. But I 
think I draw a fair picture of the general. I think 
I depict with reasonable accuracy the typical response 
of the only recognizable intelligentsia of the land to 
the first great challenge to their aristocratic aloof- 
ness — the first test in the grand manner of their free- 
dom alike from the bellicose imbecility of the plu- 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 87 

tocracy and the intolerable fears and childish moral 
certainties of the mob. That test exposed them 
shamelessly. It revealed their fast allegiance to the 
one thing that is the antithesis of all free inquiry, of 
all honest hospitality to ideas, of all intellectual in- 
dependence and integrity. They proved that they 
were correct — and in proving it they threw a brilliant 
light upon many mysteries of our national culture. 

10 

The Intolerable Burden 

Among others, upon the mystery of our literature — 
its faltering feebleness, its lack of genuine gusto, its 
dearth of salient personalities, its general air of pov- 
erty and imitation. What ails the beautiful letters of 
the Republic, I repeat, is what ails the general culture 
of the Republic — the lack of a body of sophisticated 
and civilized public opinion, independent of pluto- 
cratic control and superior to the infantile philos- 
ophies of the mob — a body of opinion showing the 
eager curiosity, the educated skepticism and the hos- 
pitality to ideas of a true aristocracy. This lack is 
felt by the American author, imagining him to have 
anything new to say, every day of his life. He can 
hope for no support, in ordinary cases, from the 
mob: it is too suspicious of all ideas. He can hope 
for no support from the spokesmen of the plutocracy: 



88 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

they are too diligently devoted to maintaining the in- 
tellectual status quo. He turns, then, to the intel- 
ligentsia — and what he finds is correctness! In his 
two prime functions, to represent the life about him 
accurately and to criticize it honestly, he sees that 
correctness arrayed against him. His representation 
is indecorous, unlovely, too harsh to be borne. His 
criticism is in contumacy to the ideals upon which 
the whole structure rests. So he is either attacked 
vigorously as an anti-patriot whose babblings ought 
to be put down by law, or enshrouded in a silence 
which commonly disposes of him even more effec- 
tively. 

Soon or late, of course, a man of genuine force and 
originality is bound to prevail against that sort of 
stupidity. He will unearth an adherent here and an- 
other there; in the long run they may become numer- 
ous enough to force some recognition of him, even 
from the most immovable exponents of correctness. 
But the business is slow, uncertain, heart-breaking. 
It puts a burden upon the artist that ought not to be 
put upon him. It strains beyond reason his diligence 
and passion. A man who devotes his life to creating 
works of the imagination, a man who gives over all 
his strength and energy to struggling with problems 
that are essentially delicate and baffling and pregnant 
with doubt — such a man does not ask for recognition 
as a mere reward for his industry; he asks for it as a 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 89 

necessary help to his industry ; he needs it as he needs 
decent subsistence and peace of mind. It is a grave 
damage to the artist and a grave loss to the literature 
when such a man as Poe has to seek consolation 
among his inferiors, and such a man as the Mark 
Twain of "What Is Man?" is forced to conceal his 
most profound beliefs, and such men as Dreiser and 
Cabell are exposed to incessant attacks by malignant 
stupidity. The notion that artists flourish upon ad- 
versity and misunderstanding, that they are able to 
function to the utmost in an atmosphere of indiffer- 
ence or hostility — this notion is nine-tenths nonsense. 
If it were true, then one would never hear of painters 
going to France or of musicians going to Germany. 
What the artist actually needs is comprehension of 
his aims and ideals by men he respects — not neces- 
sarily approval of his products, but simply an intel- 
ligent sympathy for him in the great agony of crea- 
tion. And that sympathy must be more than the 
mere fellow-feeling of other craftsmen ; it must come, 
in large part, out of a connoisseurship that is beyond 
the bald trade interest; it must have its roots in the 
intellectual curiosity of an aristocracy of taste. Bill- 
roth, I believe, was more valuable to Brahms than 
even Schumann. His ea^ger interest gave music- 
making a solid dignity. His championship offered 
the musician a visible proof that his labors had got 
for him a secure place in a civilized and stable so- 



90 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ciety, and that he would be judged by his peers, and 
safeguarded against the obtuse hostility of his in- 
feriors. 

No such security is thrown about an artist in Amer- 
ica. It is not that the country lacks the standards that 
Dr. Brownell pleads for; it is that its standards are 
still those of a primitive and timorous society. The 
excesses of Comstockery are profoundly symbolical. 
What they show is the moral certainty of the mob in 
operation against something that is as incomprehen- 
sible to it as the theory of least squares, and what 
they show even more vividly is the distressing lack of 
any automatic corrective of that outrage — of any firm 
and secure body of educated opinion, eager to hear 
and test all intelligible ideas and sensitively jealous 
of the right to discuss them freely. When "The 
Genius" was attacked by the Comstocks, it fell to my 
lot to seek assistance for Dreiser among the intelli- 
gentsia, I found them almost unanimously disin- 
clined to lend a hand. A small number permitted 
themselves to be induced, but the majority held back, 
and not a few, as I have said, actually offered more 
or less furtive aid to the Comstocks. I pressed the 
matter and began to unearth reasons. It was, it ap- 
peared, dangerous for a member of the intelligentsia, 
and particularly for a member of the academic in- 
telligentsia, to array himself against the mob inflamed 
— against the moral indignation of the sort of folk 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 91 

who devour vice reports and are converted by the 
Rev. Billy Sunday! If he came forward, he would 
have to come forward alone. There was no organ- 
ized support behind him. No instinctive urge of 
class, no prompting of a great tradition, moved him 
to speak out for artistic freedom . . . England sup- 
plied the lack. Over there they have a mob too, and 
something akin to Comstockery, and a cult of hollow 
correctness — but they also have a caste that stands 
above all that sort of thing, and out of that caste came 
aid for Dreiser. 

England is always supplying the lack — England, 
or France, or Germany, or some other country, but 
chiefly England. "My market and my reputation," 
said Prescott in 1838, "rest principally with Eng- 
land." To Poe, a few years later, the United States 
was "a literary colony of Great Britain." And there 
has been little change to this day. The English lei- 
sure class, says Prof. Dr. Veblen, is "for purposes of 
reputable usage the upper leisure class of this coun 
try." Despite all the current highfalutin about melt 
ing pots and national destinies the United States re 
mains almost as much an English colonial possession 
intellectually and spiritually, as it was on July 3 
1776. The American social pusher keeps his eye on 
Mayfair; the American literatus dreams of recogni- 
tion by the London weeklies; the American don is 
lifted to bliss by the imprimatur of Oxford or Cam- 



92 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

bridge; even the American statesman knows how to 
cringe to Downing Street. Most of the essential pol- 
icies of Dr. Wilson between 1914 and 1920 — when 
the realistic English, finding him no longer useful, 
incontinently dismissed him — were, to all intents and 
purposes, those of a British colonial premier. He 
went into the Peace Conference willing to yield every- 
thing to English interests, and he came home with a 
treaty that was so extravagantly English that it fell an 
easy prey to the anti-English minority, ever alert for 
the makings of a bugaboo to scare the plain people. 
What lies under all this subservience is simple enough. 
The American, for all his braggadocio, is quite 
conscious of his intrinsic inferiority to the English- 
man, on all cultural counts. He may put himself 
first as a man of business, as an adventurer in prac- 
tical affairs or as a pioneer in the applied arts and 
sciences, but in all things removed from the mere 
pursuit of money and physical ease he well under- 
stands that he belongs at the second table. Even his 
recurrent attacks of Anglophobia are no more than 
Freudian evidences of his inferiority complex. He 
howls in order to still his inner sense of inequality, as 
he howls against imaginary enemies in order to con- 
vince himself that he is brave and against fabulous 
despotisms in order to prove that he is free. The 
Englishman is never deceived by this hocus-pocus. 
He knows that it is always possible to fetch the rebel 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 93 

back into camp by playing upon his elemental fears 
and vanities. A few dark threats, a few patronizing 
speeches, a few Oxford degrees, and the thing is 
done. More, the English scarcely regard it as hunt- 
ing in the grand manner; it is a business of subal- 
terns. When, during the early stages of the war, they 
had occasion to woo the American intelligentsia, what 
agents did they choose? Did they nominate Thomas 
Hardy, Joseph Conrad, George Moore and com- 
pany? Nay, they nominated Conan Doyle, Con- 
ingsby Dawson, Alfred Noyes, Ian Hay, Chesterton, 
Kipling, Zangwill and company. In the choice there 
was high sagacity and no little oblique humor — as 
there was a bit later in the appointment of Lord Read- 
ing and Sir Auckland Geddes to Washington. The 
valuation they set upon the aluminados of the Republic 
was exactly the valuation they were in the habit of 
setting, at home, upon MM. of the Free Church Fed- 
eration. They saw the eternal green-grocer beneath 
the master's gown and mortarboard. Let us look 
closely and we shall see him, too. 

The essence of a self-reliant and autonomous cul- 
ture is an unshakable egoism. It must not only re- 
gard itself as the peer of any other culture; it must 
regard itself as the superior of any other. You will 
find this indomitable pride in the culture of any truly 
first-rate nation: France, Germany or England. 
But you will not find it in the so-called culture of 



94 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

America. Here the decadent Anglo-Saxon majority 
still looks obediently and a bit wistfully toward the 
motherland. No good American ever seriously ques- 
tions an English judgment on an aesthetic question, or 
even on an ethical, philosophical or political ques- 
tion. There is, in fact, seldom any rational reason 
why he should : it is almost always more mature, more 
tolerant, more intelligent than any judgment hatched 
at home. Behind it lies a settled scheme of things, 
a stable point of view, the authority of a free intel- 
lectual aristocracy, the pride of tradition and of 
power. The English are sure-footed, well-informed, 
persuasive. It is beyond their imagination that any 
one should seriously challenge them. In this over- 
grown and oafish colony there is no such sureness. 
The American always secretly envies the Englishman, 
even when he professes to flout him. The English- 
man never envies the American. . 

The extraordinary colonist, moved to give utter- 
ance to the ideas bubbling within him, is thus vastly 
handicapped, for he must submit them to the test of a 
culture that, in the last analysis, is never quite his 
own culture, despite its dominance. Looking within 
himself, he finds that he is different, that he diverges 
from the English standard, that he is authentically 
American — and to be authentically American is to be 
officially inferior. He thus faces dismay at the very 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 95 

start: support is lacking when he needs it most. 
In the motherland — in any motherland, in any 
wholly autonomous nation — there is a class of 
men like himself, devoted to translating the higher 
manifestations of the national spirit into ideas 
— men differing enormously among themselves, 
but still united in common cause against the 
lethargy and credulity of the mass. But in a 
colony that class, if it exists at all, lacks coher- 
ence and certainty; its authority is not only disputed 
by the inertia and suspiciousness of the lower orders, 
but also by the superior authority overseas; it is tim- 
orous and fearful of challenge. Thus it affords no 
protection to an individual of assertive originality, 
and he is forced to go as a suppliant to a quarter in 
which nothing is his by right, but everything must go 
by favor — in brief to a quarter where his very ap- 
plication must needs be regarded as an admission of 
his inferiority. The burden of proof upon him is 
thus made double. Obviously, he must be a man of 
very strong personality to surmount such obstacles 
triumphantly. Such strong men, of course, some- 
times appear in a colony, but they always stand alone ; 
their worst opposition is at liome. For a colonial of 
less vigorous soul the battle is almost hopeless. 
Either he submits to subordination and so wears 
docilely the inferior badge of a praiseworthy and tol- 



96 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

erated colonist, or he deserts the minority for the far 
more hospitable and confident majority, and so be- 
comes a mere mob-artist. 

Examples readily suggest themselves. I give you 
Poe and Whitman as men strong enough to weather 
the adverse wind. The salient thing about each of 
these men was this: that his impulse to self-expres- 
sion, the force of his "obscure, inner necessity," was 
so powerful that it carried him beyond all ordinary 
ambitions and prudences — in other words, that the 
ego functioned so heroically that it quite disregarded 
the temporal welfare of the individual. Neither Poe 
nor Whitman made the slightest concession to what 
was the predominant English taste, the prevailing 
English authority, of his time. And neither yielded 
in the slightest to the maudlin echoes of English no- 
tions that passed for ideas in the United States; in 
neither will you find any recognizable reflection of 
the things that Americans were saying and doing all 
about them. Even Whitman, preaching democracy, 
preached a democracy that not one actual democrat 
in a hundred thousand could so much as imagine. 
What happened? Imprimis, English authority, at the 
start, dismissed them loftily; they were, at best, sim- 
ply rare freaks from the colonies. Secondly, Amer- 
ican stupidity, falling into step, came near overlook- 
ing them altogether. The accident that maintained 
them was an accident of personality and environment. 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 97 

They happened to be men accustomed to social isola- 
tion and of the most meager wants, and it was thus 
difficult to deter them by neglect and punishment. 
So they stuck to their guns — and presently they were 
"discovered," as the phrase is, by men of a culture 
wholly foreign to them and perhaps incomprehensible 
to them, and thereafter, by slow stages, they began 
to win a slow and reluctant recognition in England 
(at first only from rebels and iconoclasts), and finally 
even in America. That either, without French 
prompting, would have come to his present estate I 
doubt very much. And in support of that doubt I 
cite again the fact that Poe's high talents as a critic, 
not having interested the French, have never got their 
deserts either in England or at home. 

It is lesser men that we chiefly have to deal with in 
this world, and it is among lesser men that the lack 
of a confident intellectual viewpoint in America 
makes itself most evident. Examples are numerous 
and obvious. On the one hand, we have Fenimore 
Cooper first making a cringing bow for English favor, 
and then, on being kicked out, joining the mob against 
sense; he wrote books so bad that even the Americans 
of 1830 admired them. On the other hand, we have 
Henry James, a deserter made by despair; one so 
depressed by the tacky company at the American 
first table that he preferred to sit at the second table 
of the English. The impulse was, and is common; 



98 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

it was only the forthright act that distinguished him. 
And in the middle ground, showing both seductions 
plainly, there is Mark Twain — at one moment striving 
his hardest for the English imprimatur, and childishly 
delighted by every favorable gesture; at the next, re- 
turning to the native mob as its premier clown — 
monkey-shining at banquets, cavorting in the news- 
papers, shrinking poltroonishly from his own ideas, 
obscenely eager to give no offense. A much greater 
artist than either Poe or Whitman, so I devoutly be- 
lieve, but a good deal lower as a man. The ultimate 
passion was not there; the decent householder always 
pulled the ear of the dreamer. His fate has irony 
in it. In England they patronize him: he is, for an 
American, not so bad. In America, appalled by his 
occasional ascents to honesty, his stray impulses to 
be wholly himself, the dunderheads return him to 
arm's length, his old place, and one of the most emi- 
nent of them, writing in the New York Times, argues 
piously that it is impossible to imagine him actually 
believing the commonplace heresies he put into 
"What Is Man?" 

11 

Epilogue 

I have described the disease. Let me say at once 
that I have no remedy to offer. I simply set down a 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 99 

few ideas, throw out a few hints, attempt a few modest 
inquiries into causes. Perhaps my argument often 
turns upon itself: the field is weed-grown and paths 
are hard to follow. It may be that insurmountable 
natural obstacles stand in the way of the development 
of a distinctively American culture, grounded upon a 
truly egoistic nationalism and supported by a native 
aristocracy. After all, there is no categorical impera- 
tive that ordains it. In such matters, when the con- 
ditions are right, nature often arranges a division of 
labor. A nation shut in by racial and linguistic isola- 
tion—a Sweden, a Holland or a France — is forced 
into autonomy by sheer necessity; if it is to have any 
intellectual life at all it must develop its own. But 
that is not our case. There is England to hold up 
the torch for us, as France holds it up for Belgium, 
and Spain for Latin America, and Germany for 
Switzerland. It is our function, as the younger and 
less confident partner, to do the simpler, rougher 
parts of the joint labor — to develop the virtues of 
the more elemental orders of men: industry, piety, 
docility, endurance, assiduity and ingenuity in practi- 
cal affairs — the wood-hewing and water-drawing of 
the race. It seems to me tjiat we do all this very well; 
in these things we are better than the English. But 
when it comes to those larger and more difficult 
activities which concern only the superior minority, 
and are, in essence, no more than products of its efforts 



100 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

to demonstrate its superiority — when it comes to the 
higher varieties of speculation and self-expression, to 
the fine arts and the game of ideas — then we fall into 
a bad second place. Where we stand, intellectually, 
is where the English non-conformists stand; like 
them, we are marked by a fear of ideas as disturbing 
and corrupting. Our art is imitative and timorous. 
Our political theory is hopelessly sophomoric and 
superficial; even English Toryism and Russian Bol- 
shevism are infinitely more profound and pene- 
trating. And of the two philosophical systems that 
we have produced, one is so banal that it is now im- 
bedded in the New Thought, and the other is so 
shallow that there is nothing in it either to puzzle or 
to outrage a school-marm. 

Nevertheless, hope will not down, and now and then 
it is supported by something rather more real than 
mere desire. One observes an under-current of re- 
volt, small but vigorous, and sometimes it exerts its 
force, not only against the superficial banality but 
also against the fundamental flabbiness, the in- 
trinsic childishness of the Puritan Anschauung. The 
remedy for that childishness is skepticism, and 
already skepticism shows itself: in the iconoclastic 
political realism of Harold Stearns, Waldo Frank and 
company, in the groping questions of Dreiser, Cabell 
and Anderson, in the operatic rebellions of the Village. 
True imagination, I often think, is no more than a 



THE NATIONAL LETTERS 101 

function of this skepticism. It is the dull man who 
is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull. 
The more a man dreams, the less he believes. A great 
literature is thus chiefly the product of doubting and 
inquiring minds in revolt against the immovable cer- 
tainties of the nation. Shakespeare, at a time of 
rising democratic feeling in England, flung the whole 
force of his genius against democracy. Cervantes, 
at a time when all Spain was romantic, made a head- 
long attack upon romance. Goethe, with Germany 
groping toward nationalism, threw his influences on the 
side of internationalism. The central trouble with 
America is conformity, timorousness, lack of enter- 
prise and audacity. A nation of third-rate men, a 
land offering hospitality only to fourth-rate artists. 
In Elizabethan England they would have bawled for 
democracy, in the Spain of Cervantes they would 
have yelled for chivalry, and in the Germany of 
Goethe they would have wept and beat their breasts 
for the Fatherland. To-day, as in the day of Emer- 
son, they set the tune. . . . But into the singing there 
occasionally enters a discordant note. On some dim 
to-morrow, perhaps, perchance, peradventure, they 
may be challenged. 



II. ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 

ONE thinks of Dr. Woodrow Wilson's bio- 
graphy of George Washington as of one of 
the strangest of all the world's books. 
Washington: the first, and perhaps also the last 
American gentleman. Wilson: the self -bamboozled 
Presbyterian, the right-thinker, the great moral states- 
man, the perfect model of the Christian cad. It is as 
if the Rev. Dr. Billy Sunday should do a biography 
of Charles Darwin — almost as if Dr. Wilson him- 
self should dedicate his senility to a life of the Cheva- 
lier Bayard, or the Cid, or Christ. . . . But such 
phenomena, of course, are not actually rare in the 
republic; here everything happens that is forbidden 
by the probabilities and the decencies. The chief na- 
tive critic of beautiful letters, for a whole generation, 
was a Baptist clergyman; he was succeeded by a 
literary Wall Street man, who gave way, in turn, to 
a soviet of ninth-rate pedagogues; this very curious 
apostolic succession I have already discussed. The 
dean of the music critics, even to-day, is a trans- 
lator of grand opera libretti, and probably one of 
the worst that ever lived. Return, now, to political 

biography. Who can think of anything in American 

102 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 103 

literature comparable to Morley's life of Gladstone, 
or Trevelyan's life of Macaulay, or Carlyle's Fred- 
erick, or even Winston Churchill's life of his father? 
I dredge my memory hopelessly; only William Gra- 
ham Sumner's study of Andrew Jackson emerges — an 
extraordinarily astute and careful piece of work by 
one of the two most underestimated Americans of his 
generation, the other being Daniel Coit Gilman. But 
where is the first-rate biography of Washington — 
sound, fair, penetrating, honest, done by a man cap- 
able of comprehending the English gentry of the 
eighteenth century? And how long must we wait 
for adequate treatises upon Jefferson, Hamilton, Sam 
Adams, Aaron Burr, Henry Clay, Calhoun, Webster, 
Sumner, Grant, Sherman, Lee? 

Even Lincoln is yet to be got vividly between the 
covers of a book. The Nicolay-Hay work is quite 
impossible; it is not a biography, but simply a huge 
storehouse of biographical raw materials; whoever 
can read it can also read the official Records of the 
Rebellion. All the other standard lives of old Abe 
— for instance, those of Lamon, Herndon and Weil, 
Stoddard, Morse and Miss Tarbell — fail still worse; 
when they are not grossly preachy and disingenuous 
they are trivial. So far as I can make out, no genu- 
inely scientific study of the man has ever been at- 
tempted. The amazing conflict of testimony about 
him remains a conflict; the most elemental facts are 



104 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

yet to be established; he grows vaguer and more 
fabulous as year follows year. One would think that, 
by this time, the question of his religious views (to 
take one example) ought to be settled, but apparently 
it is not, for no longer than a year ago there came 
a reverend author, Dr. William E. Barton, with a 
whole volume upon the subject, and I was as much in 
the dark after reading it as I had been before I opened 
it. All previous biographers, it appeared by this au- 
thor's evidence, had either dodged the problem, or 
lied. The official doctrine, in this as in other depart- 
ments, is obviously quite unsound. One hears in the 
Sunday-schools that Abe was an austere and pious 
fellow, constantly taking the name of God in whispers, 
just as one reads in the school history-books that he 
was a shining idealist, holding all his vast powers by 
the magic of an inner and ineffable virtue. Imagine 
a man getting on in American politics, interesting and 
enchanting the boobery, sawing off the horns of other 
politicians, elbowing his way through primaries and 
conventions, by the magic of virtue! As well talk of 
fetching the mob by hawking exact and arctic justice! 
Abe, in fact, must have been a fellow highly skilled 
at the great democratic art of gum-shoeing. I like to 
think of him as one who defeated such politicians as 
Stanton, Douglas and Sumner with their own weapons 
— deftly leading them into ambuscades, boldly pull- 
ing their noses, magnificently ham-stringing and horn- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 105 

swoggling them — in brief, as a politician of extraor- 
dinary talents, who loved the game for its own sake, 
and had the measure of the crowd. His official por- 
traits, both in prose and in daguerreotype, show him 
wearing the mien of a man about to be hanged; one 
never sees him smiling. Nevertheless, one hears that, 
until he emerged from Illinois, they always put the 
women, children and clergy to bed when he got a few 
gourds of corn aboard, and it is a matter of unescap- 
able record that his career in the State Legislature was 
indistinguishable from that of a Tammany Nietzsche. 
But, as I say, it is hopeless to look for the real 
man in the biographies of him: they are all full of 
distortion, chiefly pious and sentimental. The defect 
runs through the whole of American political biog- 
raphy, and even through the whole of American 
history. Nearly all our professional historians are 
poor men holding college posts, and they are ten times 
more cruelly beset by the ruling politico-plutocratic- 
social oligarchy than ever the Prussian professors 
were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the 
slightest from what is the current official doctrine, and 
they are turned out of their chairs with a ceremony 
suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet. Dur- 
ing the recent war a herd of two thousand and five 
hundred such miserable slaves was organized by Dr. 
Creel to lie for their country, and they at once fell 
upon the congenial task of rewriting American his- 



106 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

tory to make it accord with the ideas of H. P. Davison, 
Admiral Sims, Nicholas Murray Butler, the Astors, 
Barney Baruch and Lord Northcliffe. It was a com- 
mittee of this herd that solemnly pledged the honor of 
American scholarship to the authenticity of the cele- 
brated Sisson documents. . . . 

In the face of such acute miliary imbecility it is 
not surprising to discover that all of the existing 
biographies of the late Colonel Roosevelt — and they 
have been rolling off the presses at a dizzy rate since 
his death — are feeble, inaccurate, ignorant and pre- 
posterous. I have read, I suppose, at least ten of 
these tomes during the past year or so, and in all of 
them I have found vastly more gush than sense. Law- 
rence Abbott's "Impressions of Theodore Roosevelt" 
and William Roscoe Thayer's "Theodore Roosevelt" 
may well serve as specimens. Abbott's book is the 
composition, not of an unbiased student of the man, 
but of a sort of groom of the hero. He is so ex- 
tremely eager to prove that Roosevelt was the perfect 
right-thinker, according to the transient definitions of 
right-thinking, that he manages to get a flavor of 
dubiousness into his whole chronicle. I find myself 
doubting him even when I know that he is honest and 
suspect that he is right. As for Thayer, all he offers 
is a hasty and hollow pot-boiler — such a work as 
might have been well within the talents of, say, the 
late Murat Halstead or the editor of the New York 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 107 

Times. This Thayer has been heavily praised of 
late as the Leading American Biographer, and one 
constantly hears that some new university has made 
him Legum Doctor, or that he has been awarded a 
medal by this or that learned society, or that the post 
has brought him a new ribbon from some literary 
potentate in foreign parts. If, in fact, he is actually 
the cock of the walk in biography, then all I have said 
against American biographers is too mild and mellow. 
What one finds in his book is simply the third-rate 
correctness of a Boston colonial. Consider, for ex- 
ample, his frequent discussions of the war — a neces- 
sity in any work on Roosevelt. In England there is 
the mob's view of the war, and there is the view of 
civilized and intelligent men, e. g., Lansdowne, Lore- 
burn, Austin Harrison, Morel, Keynes, Haldane, 
Hirst, Balfour, Robert Cecil. In New England, it 
would appear, the two views coalesce, with the first 
outside. There is scarcely a line on the subject in 
Thayer's book that might not have been written by 
Horatio Bottomley. . . . 

Obviously, Roosevelt's reaction to the war must 
occupy a large part of any adequate biography of 
him, for that reaction was probably more comprehen- 
sively typical of the man than any other business of 
his life. It displayed not only his whole stock of 
political principles, but also his whole stock of politi- 
cal tricks. It plumbed, on the one hand, the depths 



108 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

of his sagacity, and on the other hand the depths of 
his insincerity. Fundamentally, I am convinced, he 
was quite out of sympathy with, and even quite unable 
to comprehend the body of doctrine upon which the 
Allies, and later the United States, based their case. 
To him it must have seemed insane when it was not 
hypocritical, and hypocritical when it was not insane. 
His instincts were profoundly against a new loosing 
of democratic fustian upon the world; he believed 
in strongly centralized states, founded upon power 
and devoted to enterprises far transcending mere in- 
ternal government; he was an imperialist of the type 
of Cecil Rhodes, Treitschke and Delcasse. But the 
fortunes of domestic politics jockeyed him into the 
position of standing as the spokesman of an almost 
exactly contrary philosophy. The visible enemy 
before him was Wilson. What he wanted as a poli- 
tician was something that he could get only by wrest- 
ing it from Wilson, and Wilson was too cunning to 
yield it without making a tremendous fight, chiefly 
by chicane — whooping for peace while preparing for 
war, playing mob fear against mob fear, concealing 
all his genuine motives and desires beneath clouds 
of chautauqual rhetoric, leading a mad dance whose 
tune changed at every swing. Here was an opponent 
that more than once puzzled Roosevelt, and in the end 
flatly dismayed him. Here was a mob-master with 
a technique infinitely more subtle and effective than 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 109 

his own. So lured into an unequal combat, the Rough 
Rider got bogged in absurdities so immense that only 
the democratic anaesthesia to absurdity saved him. 
To make any progress at all he was forced into fight- 
ing against his own side. He passed from the scene 
bawling piteously for a cause that, at bottom, it is 
impossible to imagine him believing in, and in terms 
of a philosophy that was as foreign to his true faith 
as it was to the faith of Wilson. In the whole affair 
there was a colossal irony. Both contestants were 
intrinsically frauds. 

The fraudulence of Wilson is now admitted by all 
save a few survivors of the old corps of official press- 
agents, most of them devoid of both honesty and 
intelligence. No unbiased man, in the presence of 
the revelations of Bullitt, Keynes and a hundred other 
witnesses, and of the Russian and Shantung perform- 
ances, and of innumerable salient domestic phenom- 
ena, can now believe that the Doctor dulcifluus was 
ever actually in favor of any of the brummagem ideals 
he once wept for, to the edification of a moral universe. 
They were, at best, no more than ingenious ruses de 
guerre, and even in the day of their widest credit it 
was the Espionage Act and the Solicitor-General to 
the Postoffice, rather than any plausibility in their 
substance, that got them their credit. In Roosevelt's 
case the imposture is less patent; he died before it 
was fully unmasked. What is more, his death put 



110 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

an end to whatever investigation of it was under way, 
for American sentimentality holds that it is indecent 
to inquire into the weaknesses of the dead, at least until 
all the flowers have withered on their tombs. When, 
a year ago, I ventured in a magazine article to call 
attention to Roosevelt's philosophical kinship to the 
Kaiser I received letters of denunciation from all 
parts of the United States, and not a few forthright 
demands that I recant on penalty of lynch law. Pru- 
dence demanded that I heed these demands. We 
live in a curious and often unsafe country. Haled 
before a Roosevelt judge for speeding my automobile, 
or spitting on the sidewalk, or carrying a jug, I might 
have been railroaded for ten years under some con- 
structive corollary of the Espionage Act. But there 
were two things that supported me in my contumacy 
to the departed. One was a profound reverence for 
and fidelity to the truth, sometimes almost amounting 
to fanaticism. The other was the support of my ven- 
erable brother in epistemology, the eminent Iowa 
right-thinker and patriot, Prof. Dr. S. P. Sherman. 
Writing in the Nation, where he survives from more 
seemly days than these, Prof. Dr. Sherman put the 
thing in plain terms. "With the essentials in the 
religion of the militarists of Germany," he said, 
"Roosevelt was utterly in sympathy." 

Utterly? Perhaps the adverb is a bit too strong. 
There was in the man a certain instinctive antipathy 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 111 

to the concrete aristocrat and in particular to the 
aristocrat's private code — the product, no doubt, of 
his essentially bourgeois origin and training. But 
if he could not go with the Junkers all the way, he 
could at least go the whole length of their distrust 
of the third order — the undifferentiated masses of men 
below. Here, I daresay, he owed a lot to Nietzsche. 
He was always reading German books, and among 
them, no doubt, were "Also sprach Zarathustra" and 
"Jenseits von Gut und Bose." In fact, the echoes 
were constantly sounding in his own harangues. 
Years ago, as an intellectual exercise while con- 
fined to hospital, I devised and printed a give-away of 
the Rooseveltian philosophy in parallel columns — in 
one column, extracts from "The Strenuous Life"; in 
the other, extracts from Nietzsche. The borrowings 
were numerous and unescapable. Theodore had 
swallowed Friedrich as a peasant swallows Peruna — 
bottle, cork, label and testimonials. Worse, the draft 
whetted his appetite, and soon he was swallowing the 
Kaiser of the Garde-Kavallerie-mess and battleship- 
launching speeches — another somewhat defective 
Junker. In his palmy days it was often impossible 
to distinguish his politico-theological bulls from those 
of Wilhelm; during the war, indeed, I suspect that 
some of them were boldly lifted by the British press 
bureau, and palmed off as felonious imprudences out 
of Potsdam. Wilhelm was his model in Weltpolitik, 



112 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

and in sociology, exegetics, administration, law, sport 
and connubial polity no less. Both roared for 
doughty armies, eternally prepared — for the theory 
that the way to prevent war is to make all conceivable 
enemies think twice, thrice, ten times. Both dreamed 
of gigantic navies, with battleships as long as Brook- 
lyn Bridge. Both preached incessantly the duty of the 
citizen to the state, with the soft pedal upon the duty 
of the state to the citizen. Both praised the habitually 
gravid wife. Both delighted in the armed pursuit 
of the lower fauna. Both heavily patronized the 
fine arts. Both were intimates of God, and announced 
His desires with authority. Both believed that all 
men who stood opposed to them were prompted by 
the devil and would suffer for it in hell. 

If, in fact, there was any difference between them, 
it was all in favor of Wilhelm. For one thing, he 
made very much fewer speeches; it took some colossal 
event, such as the launching of a dreadnaught or the 
birthday of a colonel-general, to get him upon his 
legs; the Reichstag was not constantly deluged with 
his advice and upbraiding. For another thing, he 
was a milder and more modest man — one more accus- 
tomed, let us say, to circumstance and authority, and 
hence less intoxicated by the greatness of his state. 
Finally, he had been trained to think, not only of 
his own immediate fortunes, but also of the remote 
interests of a family that, in his most expansive days, 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 113 

promised to hold the throne for many years, and so 
he cultivated a certain prudence, and even a certain 
ingratiating suavity. He could, on occasion, be ex- 
tremely polite to an opponent. But Roosevelt was 
never polite to an opponent; perhaps a gentleman, by 
American standards, he was surely never a gentle man. 
In a political career of nearly forty years he was never 
even fair to an opponent. All of his gabble about the 
square deal was merely so much protective coloration, 
easily explicable on elementary Freudian grounds. 
No man, facing Roosevelt in the heat of controversy, 
ever actually got a square deal. He took extravagant 
advantages ; he played to the worst idiocies of the mob ; 
he hit below the belt almost habitually. One never 
thinks of him as a duelist, say of the school of Dis- 
raeli, Palmerston and, to drop a bit, Blaine. One 
always thinks of him as a glorified longshoreman 
engaged eternally in cleaning out bar-rooms — and 
not too proud to gouge when the inspiration came to 
him, or to bite in the clinches, or to oppose the rela- 
tively fragile brass knuckles of the code with chair- 
legs, bung-starters, cuspidors, demijohns, and ice- 
picks. 

Abbott and Thayer, in their books, make elaborate 
efforts to depict their hero as one born with a deep 
loathing of the whole Prussian scheme of things, 
and particularly of the Prussian technique in combat. 
Abbott even goes so far as to hint that the attentions 



114 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

of the Kaiser, during Roosevelt's historic tour of 
Europe on his return from Africa, were subtly revolt- 
ing to him. Nothing could be more absurd. Prof. 
Dr. Sherman, in the article I have mentioned, blows 
up that nonsense by quoting from a speech made by 
the tourist in Berlin — a speech arguing for the most 
extreme sort of militarism in a manner that must have 
made even some of the Junkers blow their noses 
dubiously. The disproof need not be piled up; the 
America that Roosevelt dreamed of was always a 
sort of swollen Prussia, truculent without and regi- 
mented within. There was always a clank of the 
saber in his discourse ; he could not discuss the tamest 
matter without swaggering in the best dragoon fashion. 
Abbott gets into yet deeper waters when he sets up 
the doctrine that the invasion of Belgium threw his 
darling into an instantaneous and tremendous fit of 
moral indignation, and that the curious delay in the 
public exhibition thereof, so much discussed since, was 
due to his (Abbott's) fatuous interference — a faux pas 
later regretted with much bitterness. Unluckily, the 
evidence he offers leaves me full of doubts. What 
the doctrine demands that one believe is simply this: 
that the man who, for mere commercial advantage 
and (in Frederick's famous phrase) "to make him- 
self talked of in the world," tore up the treaty of 1848 
between the United States and Colombia (geb. New 
Granada), whereby the United States forever guaran- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 115 

teed the "sovereignty and ownership" of the Colom- 
bians in the isthmus of Panama — that this same man, 
thirteen years later, was horrified into a fever when 
Germany, facing powerful foes on two fronts, tore 
up the treaty of 1832, guaranteeing, not the sover- 
eignty, but the bald neutrality of Belgium — a neu- 
trality already destroyed, according to the evidence 
before the Germans, by Belgium's own acts. 

It is hard, without an inordinate strain upon the 
credulity, to believe any such thing, particularly in 
view of the fact that this instantaneous indignation 
of the most impulsive and vocal of men was dili- 
gently concealed for at least six weeks, with reporters 
camped upon his doorstep day and night, begging him 
to say the very thing that he left so darkly unsaid. 
Can one imagine Roosevelt, with red-fire raging within 
him and sky-rockets bursting in his veins, holding 
his peace for a month and a half? I have no doubt 
whatever that Abbott, as he says, desired to avoid em- 
barrassing Dr. Wilson — but think of Roosevelt show- 
ing any such delicacy! For one, I am not equal to 
the feat. All that unprecedented reticence, in fact, 
is far more readily explicable on other and less lofty 
grounds. What really happened I presume to guess. 
My guess is that Roosevelt, like the great majority of 
other Americans, was not instantly and automatically 
outraged by the invasion of Belgium. On the con- 
trary, he probably viewed it as a regrettable, but not 



116 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

unexpected or unparalleled device of war — if any- 
thing, as something rather thrillingly gaudy and 
effective — a fine piece of virtuosity, pleasing to a 
military connoisseur. But then came the deluge of 
Belgian atrocity stories, and the organized campaign 
to enlist American sympathies. It succeeded very 
quickly. By the middle of August the British press 
bureau was in full swing; by the beginning of Sep- 
tember the country was flooded with inflammatory 
stuff; six weeks after the war opened it was already 
hazardous for a German in America to state his 
country's case. Meanwhile, the Wilson administra- 
tion had declared for neutrality, and was still making 
a more or less sincere effort to practice it, at least 
on the surface. Here was Roosevelt's opportunity, 
and he leaped to it with sure instinct. On the one 
side was the adminstration that he detested, and that 
all his self-interest (e. g., his yearning to get back his 
old leadership and to become President again in 
1917) prompted him to deal a mortal blow, and on 
the other side was a ready-made issue, full of emo- 
tional possibilities, stupendously pumped up by ex- 
tremely clever propaganda, and so far unembraced by 
any other rabble-rouser of the first magnitude. Is 
it any wonder that he gave a whoop, jumped upon his 
cayuse, and began screaming for war? In war lay 
the greatest chance of his life. In war lay the con- 
fusion and destruction of Wilson, and the melodrama- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 117 

tic renaissance of the Rough Rider, the professional 
hero, the national Barbarossa. 

In all this, of course, I strip the process of its 
plumes and spangles, and expose a chain of causes 
and effects that Roosevelt himself, if he were alive, 
would denounce as grossly contumelious to his na- 
tive purity of spirit — and perhaps in all honesty. It 
is not necessary to raise any doubts as to that honesty. 
No one who has given any study to the developement 
and propagation of political doctrine in the United 
States can have failed to notice how the belief in 
issues among politicians tends to run in exact ratio 
to the popularity of those issues. Let the populace 
begin suddenly to swallow a new panacea or to take 
fright at a new bugaboo, and almost instantly nine- 
tenths of the master-minds of politics begin to believe 
that the panacea is a sure cure for all the malaises of 
the republic, and the bugaboo an immediate and un- 
bearable menace to all law, order and domestic tran- 
quillity. At the bottom of this singular intellectual 
resilience, of course, there is a good deal of hard cal- 
culation; a man must keep up with the procession of 
crazes, or his day is swiftly done. But in it there 
are also considerations a good deal more subtle, and 
maybe less discreditable^ For one thing, a man de- 
voted professionally to patriotism and the wisdom of 
the fathers is very apt to come to a resigned sort of 
acquiescence in all the doctrinaire rubbish that lies 



118 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

beneath the national scheme of things — to believe, let 
us say, if not that the plain people are gifted with 
an infallible sagacity, then at least that they have an 
inalienable right to see their follies executed. Poll- 
parroting nonsense as a matter of daily routine, the 
politician ends by assuming that it is sense, even 
though he doesn't believe it. For another thing, 
there is the contagion of mob enthusiasm — a much 
underestimated murrain. We all saw what it could 
do during the war — college professors taking their 
tune from the yellow journals, the rev. clergy per- 
forming in the pulpit like so many Liberty Loan or- 
ators in five-cent moving-picture houses, hysteria 
grown epidemic like the influenza. No man is so re- 
mote and arctic that he is wholly safe from that con- 
tamination; it explains many extravagant phenomena 
of a democratic society; in particular, it explains why 
the mob leader is so often a victim to his mob. 

Roosevelt, a perfectly typical politician, devoted to 
the trade, not primarily because he was gnawed by 
ideals, but because he frankly enjoyed its rough-and- 
tumble encounters and its gaudy rewards, was prob- 
ably moved in both ways — and also by the hard cal- 
culation that I have mentioned. If, by any ineptness 
of the British press-agents, tear-squeezers and orphan- 
exhibitors, indignation over the invasion of Belgium 
had failed to materialize — if, worse still, some gross 
infringement of American rights by the English had 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 119 

caused it to be forgotten completely — if, finally, Dr. 
Wilson had been whooping for war with the populace 
firmly against him — in such event it goes without 
saying that the moral horror of Dr. Roosevelt would 
have stopped short at a very low amperage, and that he 
would have refrained from making it the center of his 
polity. But with things as they were, lying neatly to 
his hand, he permitted it to take on an extraordinary 
virulence, and before long all his old delight in Ger- 
man militarism had been converted into a lofty de- 
testation of German militarism, and its chief spokes- 
man on this side of the Atlantic became its chief op- 
ponent. Getting rid of that old delight, of course, 
was not easily achieved. The concrete enthusiasm 
could be throttled, but the habit of mind remained. 
Thus one beheld the curious spectacle of militarism 
belabored in terms of militarism — of the Kaiser ar- 
raigned in unmistakably kaiserliche tones. 

Such violent swallowings and regurgitations were 
no novelties to the man. His whole political career 
was marked, in fact, by performances of the same sort. 
The issues that won him most votes were issues that, 
at bottom, he didn't believe in; there was always a 
mental reservation in his rhetoric. He got into pol- 
itics, not as a tribune of the plain people, but as an 
amateur reformer of the v snobbish type common in 
the eighties, by the Nation out of the Social Register. 
He was a young Harvard man scandalized by the dis- 



120 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

covery that his town was run by men with such names 
as Michael O'Shaunnessy and Terence Googan — that 
his social inferiors were his political superiors. His 
sympathies were essentially anti-democratic. He had 
a high view of his private position as a young fellow 
of wealth and education. He believed in strong cen- 
tralization — the concentration of power in a few 
hands, the strict regimentation of the nether herd, the 
abandonment of democratic platitudes. His heroes 
were such Federalists as Morris and Hamilton; he 
made his first splash in the world by writing about 
them and praising them. Worse, his daily associa- 
tions were with the old Union League crowd of high- 
tariff Republicans — men almost apoplectically op- 
posed to every movement from below — safe and sane 
men, highly conservative and suspicious men — the 
profiteers of peace, as they afterward became the 
profiteers of war. His early adventures in politics 
were not very fortunate, nor did they reveal any ca- 
pacity for leadership. The bosses of the day took 
him in rather humorously, played him for what they 
could get out of him, and then turned him loose. In 
a few years he became disgusted and went West. Re- 
turning after a bit, he encountered catastrophe: as a 
candidate for Mayor of New York he was drubbed 
unmercifully. He went back to the West. He was, 
up to this time, a comic figure — an anti-politician vie- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 121 

timized by politicians, a pseudo-aristocrat made ridic- 
ulous by the mob-masters he detested. 

But meanwhile something was happening that 
changed the whole color of the political scene, and 
was destined, eventually, to give Roosevelt his chance. 
That something was a shifting in what might be called 
the foundations of reform. Up to now it had been 
an essentially aristocratic movement — superior, snif- 
fish and anti-democratic. But hereafter it took on a 
strongly democratic color and began to adopt demo- 
cratic methods. More, the change gave it new life. 
What Harvard, the Union League Club and the Nation 
had failed to accomplish, the plain people now under- 
took to accomplish. This invasion of the old citadel 
of virtue was first observed in the West, and its man- 
ifestations out there must have given Roosevelt a good 
deal more disquiet than satisfaction. It is impos- 
sible to imagine him finding anything to his taste in 
the outlandish doings of the Populists, the wild 
schemes of the pre-Bryan dervishes. His instincts 
were against all that sort of thing. But as the move- 
ment spread toward the East it took on a certain ur- 
banity, and by the time it reached the seaboard it had 
begun to be quite civilized. With this new brand of 
reform Roosevelt now made terms. It was full of 
principles that outraged all his pruderies, but it at 
least promised to work. His entire political history 



122 PRE] VOICES : SECOND SERIES 

thereafter, down to the day of his death, was a history 
of compromises with the new forces — of a gradual 
yielding, for strategic purposes, to ideas that were in- 
trinsically at odds with his congenital prejudices. 
When, after a generation of that sort of compromis- 
ing, the so-called Progressive party was organized and 
he seized the leadership of it from the Westerners who 
had founded it, he performed a feat of wholesale 
englutination that must forever hold a high place upon 
the roll of political prodigies. That is to say, he 
swallowed at one gigantic gulp, and out of the same 
herculean jug, the most amazing mixture of social, 
political and economic perunas ever got down by one 
hero, however valiant, however athirst — a cocktail 
made up of all the elixirs hawked among the boobery 
in his time, from woman suffrage to the direct pri- 
mary, and from the initiative and referendum to the 
short ballot, and from prohibition to public owner- 
ship, and from trust-busting to the recall of judges. 

This homeric achievement made him the head of 
the most tatterdemalion party ever seen in American 
politics — a party composed of such incompatible in- 
gredients and hung together so loosely that it began 
to disintegrate the moment it was born. In part it 
was made up of mere disordered enthusiasts — believ- 
ers in anything and everything, pathetic victims of the 
credulity complex, habitual followers of jitney mes- 
siahs, incurable hopers and snufflers. But in part it 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 123 

was also made up of rice converts like Roosevelt him- 
self — men eager for office, disappointed by the old 
parties, and now quite willing to accept any aid that 
half-idiot doctrinaires could give them. I have no 
doubt that Roosevelt himself, carried away by the 
emotional storms of the moment and especially by the 
quasi-religious monkey-shines that marked the first 
Progressive convention, gradually convinced himself 
that at least some of the doctrinaires, in the midst of 
all their imbecility, yet preached a few ideas that were 
workable, and perhaps even sound. But at bottom he 
was against them, and not only in the matter of their 
specific sure cures, but also in the larger matter of 
their childish faith in the wisdom and virtue of the 
plain people. Roosevelt, for all his fluent mastery of 
democratic counter-words, democratic gestures and all 
the rest of the armamentarium of the mob-master, had 
no such faith in his heart of hearts. He didn't be- 
lieve in democracy; he believed simply in govern- 
ment. His remedy for all the great pangs and long- 
ings of existence was not a dispersion of authority, 
but a hard concentration of authority. He was not in 
favor of unlimited experiment; he was in favor of a 
rigid control from above, a despotism of inspired 
prophets and policemen. He was not for democracy 
as his followers understood dernocracy, and as it ac- 
tually is and must be; he was for a paternalism of the 
true Bismarckian pattern, almost of the Napoleonic or 



124 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Ludendorffian pattern — a paternalism concerning it- 
self with all things, from the regulation of coal-min- 
ing and meat-packing to the regulation of spelling and 
marital rights. His instincts were always those of 
the property-owning Tory, not those of the romantic 
Liberal. All the fundamental objects of Liberalism 
— free speech, unhampered enterprise, the least pos- 
sible governmental interference — were abhorrent to 
him. Even when, for campaign purposes, he came 
to terms with the Liberals his thoughts always ranged 
far afield. When he tackled the trusts the thing that 
he had in his mind's eye was not the restoration of 
competition but the subordination of all private trusts 
to one great national trust, with himself at its head. 
And when he attacked the courts it was not because 
they put their own prejudice before the law but be- 
cause they refused to put his prejudices before the 
law. 

In all his career no one ever heard him make an 
argument for the rights of the citizen; his eloquence 
was always expended in expounding the duties of the 
citizen. I have before me a speech in which he 
pleaded for "a spirit of kindly justice toward every 
man and woman," but that seems to be as far as he 
ever got in that direction — and it was the gratuitous 
justice of the absolute monarch that he apparently had 
in mind, not the autonomous and inalienable justice of 
a free society. The duties of the citizen, as he under- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 125 

stood them, related not only to acts, but also to 
thoughts. There was, to his mind, a simple body of 
primary doctrine, and dissent from it was the foulest 
of crimes. No man could have been more bitter 
against opponents, or more unfair to them, or more 
ungenerous. In this department, indeed, even so 
gifted a specialist in dishonorable controversy as Dr. 
Wilson has seldom surpassed him. He never stood 
up to a frank and chivalrous debate. He dragged 
herrings across the trail. He made seductive faces at 
the gallery. He capitalized his enormous talents as 
an entertainer, his rank as a national hero, his public 
influence and consequence. The two great law-suits 
in which he was engaged were screaming burlesques 
upon justice. He tried them in the newspapers be- 
fore ever they were called ; he befogged them with ir- 
relevant issues; his appearances in court were not the 
appearances of a witness standing on a level with 
other witnesses, but those of a comedian sure of his 
crowd. He was, in his dealings with concrete men as 
in his dealings with men in the mass, a charlatan of 
the very highest skill — and there was in him, it goes 
without saying, the persuasive charm of the charlatan 
as well as the daring deviousness, the humanness of 
naivete as well as the humanness of chicane. He 
knew how to woo — and not only boobs. He was, for 
all his ruses and ambuscades, a jolly fellow. 

It seems to be forgotten that the current American 



126 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

theory that political heresy should be put down by 
force, that a man who disputes whatever is official has 
no rights in law or equity, that he is lucky if he fares 
no worse than to lose his constitutional benefits of 
free speech, free assemblage and the use of the mails 
— it seems to be forgotten that this theory was in- 
vented, not by Dr. Wilson, but by Roosevelt. Most 
Liberals, I suppose, would credit it, if asked, to Wil- 
son. He has carried it to extravagant lengths; he is 
the father superior of all the present advocates of it; 
he will probably go down into American history as 
its greatest prophet. But it was first clearly stated, 
not in any Wilsonian bull to the right-thinkers of all 
lands, but in Roosevelt's proceedings against the so- 
called Paterson anarchists. You will find it set forth 
at length in an opinion prepared for him by his At- 
torney-General, Charles J. Bonaparte, another curious 
and almost fabulous character, also an absolutist 
wearing the false whiskers of a democrat. Bona- 
parte furnished the law, and Roosevelt furnished the 
blood and iron. It was an almost ideal combina- 
tion; Bonaparte had precisely the touch of Italian 
finesse that the Rough Rider always lacked. Roose- 
velt believed in the Paterson doctrine — in brief, that 
the Constitution does not throw its cloak around here- 
tics — to the end of his days. In the face of what he 
conceived to be contumacy to revelation his fury took 
on a sort of lyrical grandeur. There was nothing too 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 127 

awful for the culprit in the dock. Upon his head 
were poured denunciations as violent as the wildest 
interdicts of a mediasval pope. 

The appearance of such men, of course, is inevi- 
table under a democracy. Consummate showmen, 
they arrest the wonder of the mob, and so put its sus- 
picions to sleep. What they actually believe is of 
secondary consequence; the main thing is what they 
say ; even more, the way they say it. Obviously, their 
activity does a great deal of damage to the democratic 
theory, for they are standing refutations of the pri- 
mary doctrine that the common folk choose their lead- 
ers wisely. They damage it again in another and 
more subtle way. That is to say, their ineradicable 
contempt for the minds they must heat up and bam- 
boozle leads them into a fatalism that shows itself in 
a cynical and opportunistic politics, a deliberate 
avoidance of fundamentals. The policy of a de- 
mocracy thus becomes an eternal improvisation, 
changing with the private ambitions of its leaders and 
the transient and often unintelligible emotions of its 
rank and file. Roosevelt, incurably undemocratic in 
his habits of mind, often found it difficult to gauge 
those emotional oscillations. The fact explains his 
frequent loss of mob support, his periodical journeys 
into Coventry. There were times when his magnifi- 
cent talents as a public comedian brought the prole- 
tariat to an almost unanimous groveling at his feet, 



128 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

but there were also times when he puzzled and dis- 
mayed it, and so awakened its hostility. When he 
assaulted Wilson on the neutrality issue, early in 
1915, he made a quite typical mistake. That mistake 
consisted in assuming that public indignation over the 
wrongs of the Belgians would maintain itself at a high 
temperature — that it would develop rapidly into a de- 
mand for intervention. Roosevelt made himself the 
spokesman of that demand, and then found to his con- 
sternation that it was waning — that the great masses 
of the plain people, prospering under the Wilsonian 
neutrality, were inclined to preserve it, at no matter 
what cost to the Belgians. In 1915, after the Lusi- 
tania affair, things seemed to swing his way again, and 
he got vigorous support from the British press bureau. 
But in a few months he found himself once more at- 
tempting to lead a mob that was fast slipping away. 
Wilson, a very much shrewder politician, with little 
of Roosevelt's weakness for succumbing to his own 
rhetoric, discerned the truth much more quickly and 
clearly. In 1916 he made his campaign for reelec- 
tion on a flatly anti-Roosevelt peace issue, and not 
only got himself reelected, but also drove Roosevelt 
out of the ring. 

What happened thereafter deserves a great deal 
more careful study than it will ever get from the tim- 
orous eunuchs who posture as American historians. 
At the moment, it is the official doctrine in England, 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 129 

where the thing is more freely discussed than at home, 
that Wilson was forced into the war by an irresistible 
movement from below — that the plain people com- 
pelled him to abandon neutrality and move reluctantly 
upon the Germans. Nothing could be more untrue. 
The plain people, at the end of 1916, were in favor 
of peace, and they believed that Wilson was in favor 
of peace. How they were gradually worked up to 
complaisance and then to enthusiasm and then to hys- 
teria and then to acute mania — this is a tale to be told 
in more leisurely days and by historians without 
boards of trustees on their necks. For the present 
purpose it is sufficient to note that the whole thing was 
achieved so quickly and so neatly that its success left 
Roosevelt surprised and helpless. His issue had 
been stolen from directly under his nose. He was 
left standing daunted and alone, a boy upon a burning 
deck. It took him months to collect his scattered 
wits, and even then his attack upon the administra- 
tion was feeble and ineffective. To the plain people 
it seemed a mere ill-natured snapping at a successful 
rival, which in fact it was, and so they paid no heed 
to it, and Roosevelt found himself isolated once more. 
Thus he passed from the scene in the shadows, a 
broken politician and a disappointed man. 

I have a notion that he die^d too soon. His best 
days were probably not behind him, but ahead of 
him. Had he lived ten years longer, he might have 



130 PRE J V DICES: SECOND SERIES 

enjoyed a great rehabilitation, and exchanged his old 
false leadership of the inflammatory and fickle mob 
for a sound and true leadership of the civilized mi- 
nority. For the more one studies his mountebanker- 
ies as mob-master, the more one is convinced that 
there was a shrewd man beneath the motley, and that 
his actual beliefs were anything but nonsensical. 
The truth of them, indeed, emerges more clearly day 
by day. The old theory of a federation of free and 
autonomous states has broken down by its own weight, 
and we are moved toward centralization by forces that 
have long been powerful and are now quite irresis- 
tible. So with the old theory of national isolation: 
it, too, has fallen to pieces. The United States can 
no longer hope to lead a separate life in the world, 
undisturbed by the pressure of foreign aspirations. 
We came out of the war to find ourselves hemmed in 
by hostilities that no longer troubled to conceal them- 
selves, and if they are not as close and menacing to- 
day as those that have hemmed in Germany for cen- 
turies they are none the less plainly there and plainly 
growing. Roosevelt, by whatever route of reflection 
or intuition, arrived at a sense of these facts at a 
time when it was still somewhat scandalous to state 
them, and it was the capital effort of his life to recon- 
cile them, in some dark way or other, to the prevailing 
platitudes, and so get them heeded. To-day no one 
seriously maintains, as all Americans once main- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 131 

tained, that the states can go on existing together as 
independent commonwealths, each with its own laws, 
its own legal theory and its own view of the common 
constitutional bond. And to-day no one seriously 
maintains, as all Americans once maintained, that the 
nation may safely potter on without adequate means 
of defense. However unpleasant it may be to con- 
template, the fact is plain that the American people, 
during the next century, will have to fight to maintain 
their place in the sun. 

Roosevelt lived just long enough to see his notions 
in these directions take on life, but not long enough 
to see them openly adopted. To the extent of his 
prevision he was a genuine leader of the nation, and 
perhaps in the years to come, when his actual ideas 
are disentangled from the demagogic fustian in which 
he had to wrap them, his more honest pronunciamen- 
toes will be given canonical honors, and he will be 
ranked among the prophets. He saw clearly more 
than one other thing that was by no means obvious to 
his age — for example, the inevitability of frequent 
wars under the new world-system of extreme national- 
ism; again, the urgent necessity, for primary police 
ends, of organizing the backward nations into groups 
of vassals, each under the hoof of some first-rate 
power; yet again, the probability of the breakdown 
of the old system of free competition; once more, the 
high social utility of the Spartan virtues and the 



132 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

grave dangers of sloth and ease; finally, the incompat- 
ibility of free speech and democracy. I do not say 
that he was always quite honest, even when he was 
most indubitably right. But in so far as it was pos- 
sible for him to be honest and exist at all politically, 
he inclined toward the straightforward thought and 
the candid word. That is to say, his instinct 
prompted him to tell the truth, just as the instinct of 
Dr. Wilson prompts him to shift and dissimulate. 
What ailed him was the fact that his lust for glory, 
when it came to a struggle, was always vastly more 
powerful than his lust for the eternal verities. 
Tempted sufficiently, he would sacrifice anything and 
everything to get applause. Thus the statesman was 
debauched by the politician, and the philosopher was 
elbowed out of sight by the popinjay. 

Where he failed most miserably was in his reme- 
dies. A remarkably penetrating diagnostician, well- 
read, unprejudiced and with a touch of genuine scien- 
tific passion, he always stooped to quackery when he 
prescribed a course of treatment. For all his sen- 
sational attacks upon the trusts, he never managed to 
devise a scheme to curb them — and even when he 
sought to apply the schemes of other men he invar- 
iably corrupted the business with timorousness and in- 
sincerity. So with his campaign for national pre- 
paredness. He displayed the disease magnificently, 
but the course of medication that he proposed was 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 133 

vague and unconvincing; it was not, indeed, without 
justification that the plain people mistook his ad- 
vocacy of an adequate army for a mere secret yearn- 
ing to prance upon a charger at the head of huge 
hordes. So, again, with his eloquent plea for na- 
tional solidarity and an end of hyphenism. The dan- 
gers that he pointed out were very real and very men- 
acing, but his plan for abating them only made them 
worse. His objurgations against the Germans surely 
accomplished nothing; the hyphenate of 1915 is still 
a hyphenate in his heart — with bitter and unforget- 
table grievances to support him. Roosevelt, very 
characteristically, swung too far. In denouncing 
German hyphenism so extravagantly he contrived to 
give an enormous impetus to English hyphenism, a 
far older and more perilous malady. It has already 
gone so far that a large and influential party endeav- 
ors almost openly to convert the United States into 
a mere vassal state of England's. Instead of na- 
tional solidarity following the war, we have only a 
revival of Know-Nothingism ; one faction of hyphen- 
ates tries to exterminate another faction. Roosevelt's 
error here was one that he was always making. Car- 
ried away by the ease with which he could heat up the 
mob, he tried to accomplish instantly and by force 
majeure what could only be accomplished by a long 
and complex process, with more good will on both 
sides than ever so opinionated and melodramatic a 



134 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

pseudo- Junker was capable of. But though he thus 
made a mess of the cure, he was undoubtedly right 
about the disease. 

The talented Sherman, in the monograph that I 
have praised, argues that the chief contribution of the 
dead gladiator to American life was the example of 
his gigantic gusto, his delight in toil and struggle, his 
superb aliveness. The fact is plain. What he stood 
most clearly in opposition to was the superior pes- 
simism of the three Adams brothers — the notion that 
the public problems of a democracy are unworthy the 
thought and effort of a civilized and self-respecting 
man — the sad error that lies in wait for all of us 
who hold ourselves above the general. Against this 
suicidal aloofness Roosevelt always hurled himself 
with brave effect. Enormously sensitive and resili- 
ent, almost pathological in his appetite for activity, 
he made it plain to every one that the most stimulating 
sort of sport imaginable was to be obtained in fight- 
ing, not for mere money, but for ideas. There was 
no aristocratic reserve about him. He was not, in 
fact, an aristocrat at all, but a quite typical member 
of the upper bourgeoisie; his people were not 
patroons in New Amsterdam, but simple traders; he 
was himself a social pusher, and eternally tickled by 
the thought that he had had a Bonaparte in his cabinet. 
The marks of the thoroughbred were simply not there. 
The man was blatant, crude, overly confidential, de- 



ROOSEVELT: AN AUTOPSY 135 

vious, tyrannical, vainglorious, sometimes quite child- 
ish. One often observed in him a certain pathetic 
wistfulness, a reaching out for a grand manner that 
was utterly beyond him. But the sweet went with 
the bitter. He had all the virtues of the fat and com- 
placent burgher. His disdain of affectation and 
prudery was magnificent. He hated all pretension 
save his own pretension. He had a sound respect for 
hard effort, for loyalty, for thrift, for honest achieve- 
ment. 

His worst defects, it seems to me, were the defects 
of his race and time. Aspiring to be the leader of 
a nation of third-rate men, he had to stoop to the com- 
mon level. When he struck out for realms above that 
level he always came to grief: this was the "unsafe" 
Roosevelt, the Roosevelt who was laughed at, the 
Roosevelt retired suddenly to cold storage. This was 
the Roosevelt who, in happier times and a better place,, 
might have been. Well, one does what one can. 



III. THE SAHARA OF THE BOZART 

Alas, for the South ! Her books have grown fewer — 
She never was much given to literature. 

IN the lamented J. Gordon Googler, author of 
these elegaic lines, there was the insight of a 
true poet. He was the last bard of Dixie, at 
least in the legitimate line. Down there a poet is 
now almost as rare as an oboe-player, a dry-point 
etcher or a metaphysician. It is, indeed, amazing 
to contemplate so vast a vacuity. One thinks of the 
interstellar spaces, of the colossal reaches of the now 
mythical ether. Nearly the whole of Europe could 
be lost in that stupendous region of fat farms, shoddy 
cities and paralyzed cerebrums: one could throw in 
France, Germany and Italy, and still have room for 
the British Isles. And yet, for all its size and all its 
wealth and all the "progress" it babbles of, it is 
almost as sterile, artistically, intellectually, culturally, 
as the Sahara Desert. There are single acres in 
Europe that house more first-rate men than all the 
states south of the Potomac ; there are probably single 
square miles in America. If the whole of the late 
Confederacy were to be engulfed by a tidal wave to- 
morrow, the effect upon the civilized minority of men 

136 



, THE SAHARA OF BOZART 137 

in the world would be but little greater than that of a 
flood on the Yang-tse-kiang. It would be impossible 
in all history to match so complete a drying-up of a 
civilization. 

I say a civilization because that is what, in the old 
days, the South had, despite the Baptist and Meth- 
odist barbarism that reigns down there now. More, 
it was a civilization of manifold excellences — per- 
haps the best that the Western Hemisphere has ever 
seen — undoubtedly the best that These States have 
ever seen. Down to the middle of the last century, 
and even beyond, the main hatchery of ideas on this 
side of the water was across the Potomac bridges. 
The New England shopkeepers and theologians never 
really developed a civilization; all they ever de- 
veloped was a government. They were, at their best, 
tawdry and tacky fellows, oafish in manner and de- 
void of imagination; one searches the books in vain 
for mention of a salient Yankee gentleman; as well 
look for a Welsh gentleman. But in the south there 
were men of delicate fancy, urbane instinct and aristo- 
cratic manner — in brief, superior men — in brief, gen- 
try. To politics, their chief diversion, they brought 
active and original minds. It was there that nearly 
all the political theories we still cherish and suffer 
under came to birth. It was there that the crude dog- 
matism of New England was refined and humanized. 
It was there, above all, that some attention was given 



138 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

to the art of living — that life got beyond and above 
the state of a mere infliction and became an exhilarat- 
ing experience. A certain noble spaciousness was 
in the ancient southern scheme of things. The f/r- 
Confederate had leisure. He liked to toy with ideas. 
He was hospitable and tolerant. He had the vague 
thing that we call culture. 

But consider the condition of his late empire to- 
day. The picture gives one the creeps. It is as if 
the Civil War stamped out every last bearer of the 
torch, and left only a mob of peasants on the field. 
One thinks of Asia Minor, resigned to Armenians, 
Greeks and wild swine, of Poland abandoned to the 
Poles. In all that gargantuan paradise of the fourth- 
rate there is not a single picture gallery worth going 
into, or a single orchestra capable of playing the nine 
symphonies of Beethoven, or a single opera-house, or 
a single theater devoted to decent plays, or a single 
public monument (built since the war) that is worth 
looking at, or a single workshop devoted to the making 
of beautiful things. Once you have counted Robert 
Loveman (an Ohioan by birth) and John McClure 
(an Oklahoman) you will not find a single southern 
poet above the rank of a neighborhood rhymester. 
Once you have counted James Branch Cabell (a ling- 
ering survivor of the ancien regime: a scarlet dragon- 
fly imbedded in opaque amber) you will not find a 
single southern prose writer who can actually write. 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 139 

And once you have — but when you come to critics, 
musical composers, painters, sculptors, architects and 
the like, you will have to give it up, for there is not 
even a bad one between the Potomac mud-flats and the 
Gulf. Nor an historian. Nor a sociologist. Nor 
a philosopher. Nor a theologian. Nor a scientist. 
In all these fields the south is an awe-inspiring blank 
— a brother to Portugal, Serbia and Esthonia. 

Consider, for example, the present estate and dig- 
nity of Virginia — in the great days indubitably the 
premier American state, the mother of Presidents and 
statesmen, the home of the first American university 
worthy of the name, the arbiter elegantiarum of the 
western world. Well, observe Virginia to-day. It is 
years since a first-rate man, save only Cabell, has 
come out of it; it is years since an idea has come 
out of it. The old aristocracy went down the red 
gullet of war; the poor white trash are now in the sad- 
dle. Politics in Virginia are cheap, ignorant, paro- 
chial, idiotic; there is scarcely a man in office above 
the rank of a professional job-seeker; the political 
doctrine that prevails is made up of hand-me-downs 
from the bumpkinry of the Middle West — Bryanism, 
Prohibition, vice crusading, all that sort of filthy 
claptrap; the administration of the law is turned 
over to professors of Puritanism and espionage; a 
Washington or a Jefferson, dumped there by some act 
of God, would be denounced as a scoundrel and jailed 



140 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

overnight. Elegance, esprit, culture? Virginia has 
no art, no literature, no philosophy, no mind or aspi- 
ration of her own. Her education has sunk to the 
Baptist seminary level; not a single contribution to 
human knowledge has come out of her colleges in 
twenty-five years; she spends less than half upon her 
common schools, per capita, than any northern state 
spends. In brief, an intellectual Gobi or Lapland. 
Urbanity, politesse, chivalry? Co to! It was in Vir- 
ginia that they invented the device of searching for 
contraband whisky in women's underwear. . . . 
There remains, at the top, a ghost of the old aristoc- 
racy, a bit wistful and infinitely charming. But it 
has lost all its old leadership to fabulous monsters 
from the lower depths; it is submerged in an indus- 
trial plutocracy that is ignorant and ignominious. 
The mind of the state, as it is revealed to the nation, 
is pathetically naive and inconsequential. It no 
longer reacts with energy and elasticity to great prob' 
lems. It has fallen to the bombastic trivialities of 
the camp-meeting and the chautauqua. Its foremost 
exponent — if so flabby a thing may be said to have 
an exponent — is a stateman whose name is synony- 
mous with empty words, broken pledges and false 
pretenses. One could no more imagine a Lee or a 
Washington in the Virginia of to-day than one could 
imagine a Huxley in Nicaragua. 

I choose the Old Dominion, not because I disdain 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 141 

it, but precisely because I esteem it. It is, by long 
odds, the most civilized of the southern states, now as 
always. It has sent a host of creditable sons north- 
ward; the stream kept running into our own time. 
Virginians, even the worst of them, show the effects of 
a great tradition. They hold themselves above other 
southerners, and with sound pretension. If one turns 
to such a commonwealth as Georgia the picture be- 
comes far darker. There the liberated lower orders 
of whites have borrowed the worst commercial bound- 
erism of ^he Yankee and superimposed it upon a cul- 
ture that, at bottom, is but little removed from sav- 
agery. Georgia is at once the home of the cotton- 
mill sweater and of the most noisy and vapid sort of 
chamber of commerce, of the Methodist parson turned 
Savonarola and of the lynching bee. A self-respect- 
ing European, going there to live, would not only 
find intellectual stimulation utterly lacking; he would 
actually feel a certain insecurity, as if the scene were 
the Balkans or the China Coast. The Leo Frank af- 
fair was no isolated phenomenon. It fitted into its 
frame very snugly. It was a natural expression of 
Georgian notions of truth and justice. There is a 
state with more than half the area of Italy and more 
population than either Denmark or Norway, and yet 
in thirty years it has not produced a single idea. 
Once upon a time a Georgian printed a couple of 
books that attracted notice, but immediately it turned 



142 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

out that he was little more than an amanuensis for the 
local blacks — that his works were really the products, 
not of white Georgia, but of black Georgia. Writing 
afterward as a white man, he swiftly subsided into the 
fifth rank. And he is not only the glory of the lit- 
erature of Georgia; he is, almost literally, the whole 
of the literature of Georgia — nay, of the entire art of 
Georgia. 

Virginia is the best of the south to-day, and Georgia 
is perhaps the worst. The one is simply senile; the 
other is crass, gross, vulgar and obnoxious. Between 
lies a vast plain of mediocrity, stupidity, lethargy, al- 
most of dead silence. In the north, of course, there 
is also grossness, crassness, vulgarity. The north, in 
its way, is also stupid and obnoxious. But nowhere 
in the north is there such complete sterility, so de- 
pressing a lack of all civilized gesture and aspira- 
tion. One would find it difficult to unearth a second- 
rate city between the Ohio and the Pacific that isn't 
struggling to establish an orchestra, or setting up a 
little theater, or going in for an art gallery, or making 
some other effort to get into touch with civilization. 
These efforts often fail, and sometimes they succeed 
rather absurdly, but under them there is at least an 
impulse that deserves respect, and that is the impulse 
to seek beauty and to experiment with ideas, and so 
to give the life of every day a certain dignity and pur- 
pose. You will find no such impulse in the south. 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 143 

There are no committees down there cadging subscrip- 
tions for orchestras; if a string quartet is ever heard 
there, the news of it has never come out; an opera 
troupe, when it roves the land, is a nine days' wonder. 
The little theater movement has swept the whole 
country, enormously augmenting the public interest in 
sound plays, giving new dramatists their chance, forc- 
ing reforms upon the commercial theater. Every- 
where else the wave rolls high — but along the line of 
the Potomac it breaks upon a rock-bound shore. 
There is no little theater beyond. There is no gal- 
lery of pictures. No artist ever gives exhibitions. 
No one talks of such things. No one seems to be in- 
terested in such things. 

As for the cause of this unanimous torpor and 
doltishness, this curious and almost pathological es- 
trangement from everything that makes for a civilized 
jculture, I have hinted at it already, and now state it 
again. The south has simply been drained of all its 
best blood. The vast blood-letting of the Civil War 
half exterminated and wholly paralyzed the old aris- 
tocracy, and so left the land to the harsh mercies of 
the poor white trash, now its masters. The war, of 
course, was not a complete massacre. It spared a 
decent number of first-rate southerners — perhaps even 
some of the very best. Moreover, other countries, 
notably France and Germany, have survived far more 
staggering butcheries, and even showed marked prog- 



144 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ress thereafter. But the war not only cost a great 
many valuable lives; it also brought bankruptcy, 
demoralization and despair in its train — and so the 
majority of the first-rate southerners that were left, 
broken in spirit and unable to live under the new dis- 
pensation, cleared out. A few went to South Amer- 
ica, to Egypt, to the Far East. Most came north. 
They were fecund ; their progeny is widely dispersed, 
to the great benefit of the north. A southerner of 
good blood almost always does well in the north. He 
finds, even in the big cities, surroundings fit for a 
man of condition. His peculiar qualities have a high 
social value, and are esteemed. He is welcomed by 
the codfish aristocracy as one palpably superior. But 
in the south he throws up his hands. It is impossible 
for him to stoop to the common level. He cannot 
brawl in politics with the grandsons of his grand- 
father's tenants. He is unable to share their fierce 
jealousy of the emerging black — the cornerstone of 
all their public thinking. He is anaesthetic to their 
theological and political enthusiasms. He finds him- 
self an alien at their feasts of soul. And so he with- 
draws into his tower, and is heard of no more. Ca- 
bell is almost a perfect example. His eyes, for years, 
were turned toward the past; he became a professor 
of the grotesque genealogizing that decaying aristoc- 
racies affect; it was only by a sort of accident that he 
discovered himself to be an artist. The south is 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 145 

unaware of the fact to this day; it regards Woodrow 
Wilson and Col. John Temple Graves as much finer 
stylists, and Frank L. Stanton as an infinitely greater 
poet. If it has heard, which I doubt, that Cabell has 
been hoofed by the Comstocks, it unquestionably 
views that assault as a deserved rebuke to a fellow 
who indulges a lewd passion for fancy writing, and is 
a covert enemy to the Only True Christianity. 

What is needed down there, before the vexatious 
public problems of the region may be intelligently 
approached, is a survey of the population by com- 
petent ethnologists and anthropologists. The immi- 
grants of the north have been studied at great length, 
and any one who is interested may now apply to the 
Bureau of Ethnology for elaborate data as to their 
racial strains, their stature and cranial indices, their 
relative capacity for education, and the changes that 
they undergo under American Kultur. But the older 
stocks of the south, and particularly the emancipated 
and dominant poor white trash, have never been in- 
vestigated scientifically, and most of the current gen- 
eralizations about them are probably wrong. For ex- 
ample, the generalization that they are purely Anglo- 
Saxon in blood. This I doubt very seriously. The 
chief strain down there, I believe, is Celtic rather than 
Saxon, particularly in the hill country. French 
blood, too, shows itself here and there, and so does 
Spanish, and so does German. The last-named en- 



146 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

tered from the northward, by way of the limestone 
belt just east of the Alleghenies. Again, it is very 
likely that in some parts of the south a good many of 
the plebeian whites have more than a trace of negro 
blood. Interbreeding under concubinage produced 
some very light half-breeds at an early day, and no 
doubt appreciable numbers of them went over into 
the white race by the simple process of changing their 
abode. Not long ago I read a curious article by an 
intelligent negro, in which he stated that it is easy for 
a very light negro to pass as white in the south on ac- 
count of the fact that large numbers of southerners 
accepted as white have distinctly negroid features. 
Thus it becomes a delicate and dangerous matter for 
a train conductor or a hotel-keeper to challenge a sus- 
pect. But the Celtic strain is far more obvious than 
any of these others. It not only makes itself visible 
in physical stigmata — e. g., leanness and dark color- 
ing — but also in mental traits. For example, the re- 
ligious thought of the south is almost precisely iden- 
tical with the religious thought of Wales. There is 
the same naive belief in an anthropomorphic Creator 
but little removed, in manner and desire, from an 
evangelical bishop; there is the same submission to an 
ignorant and impudent sacerdotal tyranny, and there 
is the same sharp contrast between doctrinal ortho- 
doxy and private ethics. Read Caradoc Evans' iron- 
ical picture of the Welsh Wesleyans in his preface 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 147 

to "My Neighbors," and you will be instantly re- 
minded of the Georgia and Carolina Methodists. 
The most booming sort of piety, in the south, is not 
incompatible with the theory that lynching is a benign 
institution. Two generations ago it was not incom- 
patible with an ardent belief in slavery. 

It is highly probable that some of the worst blood 
of western Europe flows in the veins of the southern 
poor whites, now poor no longer. The original 
strains, according to every honest historian, were ex- 
tremely corrupt. Philip Alexander Bruce (a Vir- 
ginian of the old gentry) says in his "Industrial His- 
tory of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century" that the 
first native-born generation was largely illegitimate. 
"One of the most common offenses against morality 
committed in the lower ranks of life in Virginia dur- 
ing the seventeenth century," he says, "was bastardy." 
The mothers of these bastards, he continues, were 
chiefly indentured servants, and "had belonged to the 
lowest class in their native country." Fanny Kem- 
ble Butler, writing of the Georgia poor whites of a 
century later, described them as "the most degraded 
race of human beings claiming an Anglo-Saxon origin 
that can be found on the face of the earth — filthy, 
lazy, ignorant, brutal, proud, penniless savages." 
The Sunday-school and the chautauqua, of course, 
have appreciably mellowed the descendants of these 
"savages," and their economic progress and rise to 



148 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

political power have done perhaps even more, but the 
marks of their origin are still unpleasantly plentiful. 
Every now and then they produce a political leader 
who puts their secret notions of the true, the good and 
the beautiful into plain words, to the amazement and 
scandal of the rest of the country. That amazement 
is turned into downright incredulity when news comes 
that his platform has got him high office, and that he 
is trying to execute it. 

In the great days of the south the line between the 
gentry and the poor whites was very sharply drawn. 
There was absolutely no intermarriage. So far as I 
know there is not a single instance in history of a 
southerner of the upper class marrying one of the 
bondwomen described by Mr. Bruce. In other so- 
cieties characterized by class distinctions of that sort 
it is common for the lower class to be improved by ex- 
tra-legal crosses. That is to say, the men of the up- 
per class take women of the lower class as mistresses, 
and out of such unions spring the extraordinary plebe- 
ians who rise sharply from the common level, and so 
propagate the delusion that all other plebeians would 
do the same thing if they had the chance — in brief, 
the delusion that class distinctions are merely eco- 
nomic and conventional, and not congenital and gen- 
uine. But in the south the men of the upper classes 
sought their mistresses among the blacks, and after 
a few generations there was so much white blood 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 149 

in the black women that they were considerably more 
attractive than the unhealthy and bedraggled women 
of the poor whites. This preference continued into 
our own time. A southerner of good family once told 
me in all seriousness that he had reached his majority 
before it ever occurred to him that a white woman 
might make quite as agreeable a mistress as the octa- 
roons of his jejune fancy. If the thing has changed 
of late, it is not the fault of the southern white man, 
-but of the southern mulatto women. The more 
sightly yellow girls of the region, with improving eco- 
nomic opportunities, have gained self-respect, and so 
they are no longer as willing to enter into concubinage 
as their grand-dams were. 

As a result of this preference of the southern gen- 
try for mulatto mistresses there was created a series 
of mixed strains containing the best white blood of 
the south, and perhaps of the whole country. As 
another result the poor whites went unfertilized from 
above, and so missed the improvement that so con- 
stantly shows itself in the peasant stocks of other 
countries. It is a commonplace that nearly all ne- 
groes who rise above the general are of mixed blood, 
usually with the white predominating. I know a 
great many negroes, and it would be hard for me to 
think of an exception. What is too often forgotten 
is that this white blood is not the Mood of the poor 
whites but that of the old gentry. The mulatto girls 



150 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

of the early days despised the poor whites as creatures 
distinctly inferior to negroes, and it was thus almost 
unheard of for such a girl to enter into relations with 
a man of that submerged class. This aversion was 
based upon a sound instinct. The southern mulatto 
of to-day is a proof of it. Like all other half-breeds 
he is an unhappy man, with disquieting tendencies 
toward anti-social habits of thought, but he is intrin- 
sically a better animal than the pure-blooded descend- 
ant of the old poor whites, and he not infrequently 
demonstrates it. It is not by accident that the negroes 
of the south are making faster progress, economically 
and culturally, than the masses of the whites. It is 
not by accident that the only visible aesthetic activ- 
ity in the south is wholly in their hands. No south- 
ern composer has ever written music so good as that 
of half a dozen white-black composers who might be 
named. Even in politics, the negro reveals a curious 
superiority. Despite the fact that the race question 
has been the main political concern of the southern 
whites for two generations, to the practical exclusion 
of everything else, they have contributed nothing to 
its discussion that has impressed the rest of the world 
so deeply and so favorably as three or four books by 
southern negroes. 

Entering upon such themes, of course, one must re- 
sign one's self to a vast misunderstanding and abuse. 
The south has not only lost its old capacity for pro- 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 151 

ducing ideas; it has also taken on the worst intoler- 
ance of ignorance and stupidity. Its prevailing men- 
tal attitude for several decades past has been that of 
its own hedge ecclesiastics. All who dissent from its 
orthodox doctrines are scoundrels. All who presume 
to discuss its ways realistically are damned. I have 
had, in my day, several experiences in point. Once, 
after I had published an article on some phase of 
the eternal race question, a leading southern news- 
paper replied by printing a column of denunciation 
of my father, then dead nearly twenty years — a phi- 
lippic placarding him as an ignorant foreigner of dubi- 
ous origin, inhabiting "the Baltimore ghetto" and 
speaking a dialect recalling that of Weber & Fields — 
two thousand words of incandescent nonsense, utterly 
false and beside the point, but exactly meeting the 
latter-day southern notion of effective controversy. 
Another time, I published a short discourse on lynch- 
ing, arguing that the sport was popular in the south 
because the backward culture of the region denied the 
populace more seemly recreations. Among such rec- 
reations I mentioned those afforded by brass bands, 
symphony orchestras, boxing matches, amateur ath- 
letic contests, shoot-the-chutes, roof gardens, horse 
races, and so on. In reply another great southern 
journal denounced me as a man "of wineshop temper- 
ament, brass-jewelry tastes and pornographic predi- 
lections." In other words, brass bands, in the south, 



152 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

are dassed with brass jewelry, and both are snares of 
the devil! To advocate setting up symphony orches- 
tras is pornography! . . . Alas, when the touchy 
southerner attempts a greater urbanity, the result is 
often even worse. S'ome time ago a colleague of 
mine printed an article deploring the arrested cultural 
development of Georgia. In reply he received a 
number of protests from patriotic Georgians, and all 
of them solemnly listed the glories of the state. I in- 
dulge in a few specimens: 

Who has not heard of Asa G. Candler, whose name is syn- 
onymous with Coca-Cola, a Georgia product? 

The first Sunday-school in the world was opened in Sa- 
vannah. 

Who does not recall with pleasure the writings of . . . 
Frank L. Stanton, Georgia's brilliant poet? 

Georgia was the first state to organize a Boys' Corn Club 
in the South — Newton county, 1904. 

The first to suggest a common United Daughters of the 
Confederacy badge was Mrs. Raynes, of Georgia. 

The first to suggest a state historian of the United 
Daughters of the Confederacy was Mrs. C. Helen Plane 
(Macon convention, 1896). 

The first to suggest putting to music Heber's "From Green- 
land's Icy Mountains" was Mrs. F. R. Goulding, of Savan- 
nah. 

And so on, and so on. These proud boasts came, 
remember, not from obscure private persons, but 



THE SAHARA OF BOZART 153 

from "Leading Georgians" — in one case, the state his- 
torian. Curious sidelights upon the ex- Confederate 
mind! Another comes from a stray copy of a negro 
paper. It describes an ordinance lately passed by the 
city council of Douglas, Ga., forbidding any trous- 
ers presser, on penalty of forfeiting a $500 bond, to 
engage in "pressing for both white and colored." 
This in a town, says the negro paper, where prac- 
tically all of the white inhabitants have "their food 
prepared by colored hands," "their babies cared for 
by colored hands," and "the clothes which they wear 
right next to their skins washed in houses where ne- 
groes live" — houses in which the said clothes "re- 
main for as long as a week at a time." But if you 
marvel at the absurdity, keep it dark! A casual 
word, and the united press of the south will be upon 
your trail, denouncing you bitterly as a scoundrelly 
Yankee, a Bolshevik Jew, an agent of the Wilhelm- 
strasse. . . . 

Obviously, it is impossible for intelligence to flour- 
ish in such an atmosphere. Free inquiry is blocked 
by the idiotic certainties of ignorant men. The arts, 
save in the lower reaches of the gospel hymn, the 
phonograph and the chautauqua harangue, are all 
held in suspicion. The tone of public opinion is set 
by an upstart class but lately emerged from indus- 
trial slavery into commercial enterprise — the class of 
"hustling" business men, of "live wires," of commer- 



154 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

cial club luminaries, of "drive" managers, of for- 
ward-lookers and right-thinkers — in brief, of third- 
rate southerners inoculated with all the worst traits of 
the Yankee sharper. One observes the curious effects 
of an old tradition of truculence upon a population 
now merely pushful and impudent, of an old tradition 
of chivalry upon a population now quite without 
imagination. The old repose is gone. The old ro- 
manticism is gone. The philistinism of the new type 
of town-boomer southerner is not only indifferent to 
the ideals of the old south; it is positively antago- 
nistic to them. That philistinism regards human life, 
not as an agreeable adventure, but as a mere trial of 
rectitude and efficiency. It is overwhelmingly utili- 
tarian and moral. It is inconceivably hollow and 
obnoxious. What remains of the ancient tradition is 
simply a certain charming civility in private inter- 
course — often broken down, alas, by the hot rages of 
Puritanism, but still generally visible. The south- 
erner, at his worst, is never quite the surly cad that 
the Yankee is. His sensitiveness may betray him 
into occasional bad manners, but in the main he is a 
pleasant fellow — hospitable, polite, good-humored, 
even jovial. . . . But a bit absurd. ... A bit pa- 
thetic. 



IV. THE DIVINE AFFLATUS 

THE suave and cedematous Chesterton, in a late 
effort to earn the honorarium of a Chicago 
newspaper, composed a thousand words of 
labored counterblast to what is called inspiration in 
the arts. The thing itself, he argued, has little if any 
actual existence; we hear so much about it because 
its alleged coyness and fortuitousness offer a con- 
venient apology for third-rate work. The man taken 
in such third-rate work excuses himself on the ground 
that he is a helpless slave of some power that stands 
outside him, and is quite beyond his control. On 
days when it favors him he teems with ideas and 
creates masterpieces, but on days when it neglects him 
he is crippled and impotent — a fiddle without a bow, 
an engine without steam, a tire without air. All 
this, according to Chesterton, is nonsense. A man 
who can really write at all, or paint at all, or compose 
at all should be able to do it at almost any time, pro- 
vided only "he is not drunk or asleep." 

So far Chesterton. The formula of the argument 
is simple and familiars to dispose of a problem all 
that is necessary is to deny that it exists. But there 
are plenty of men, I believe, who find themselves 

155 



156 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

unable to resolve the difficulty in any such cavalier 
manner — men whose chief burden and distinction, 
in fact, is that they do not employ formulae in their 
thinking, but are thrown constantly upon industry, 
ingenuity and the favor of God. Among such men 
there remains a good deal more belief in what is 
vaguely called inspiration. They know by hard ex- 
perience that there are days when their ideas flow 
freely and clearly, and days when they are dammed 
up damnably. Say a man of that sort has a good 
day. For some reason quite incomprehensible to 
him all his mental processes take on an amazing 
ease and slickness. Almost without conscious effort 
he solves technical problems that have badgered him 
for weeks. He is full of novel expedients, extraor- 
dinary efficiencies, strange cunnings. He has a 
feeling that he has suddenly and unaccountably broken 
through a wall, dispersed a fog, got himself out of 
the dark. So he does a double or triple stint of the 
best work that he is capable of — maybe of far better 
work than he has ever been capable of before — and 
goes to bed impatient for the morrow. And on the 
morrow he discovers to his consternation that he has 
become almost idiotic, and quite incapable of any 
work at all. 

I challenge any man who trades in ideas to deny 
that he has this experience. The truth is that he has 
it constantly. It overtakes poets and contrapuntists, 



THE DIVINE AFFLATUS 157 

critics and dramatists, philosophers and journalists; 
it may even be shared, so far as I know, by advertise- 
ment writers, chautauqua orators and the rev. clergy. 
The characters that all anatomists of melancholy mark 
in it are the irregular ebb and flow of the tides, and 
the impossibility of getting them under any sort of 
rational control. The brain, as it were, stands to one 
side and watches itself pitching and tossing, full of 
agony but essentially helpless. Here the man of 
creative imagination pays a ghastly price for all his 
superiorities and immunities; nature takes revenge 
upon him for dreaming of improvements in the scheme 
of things. Sitting there in his lonely room, gnawing 
the handle of his pen, racked by his infernal quest, 
horribly bedevilled by incessant flashes of itching, 
toothache, eye-strain and evil conscience — thus tor- 
tured, he makes atonement for his crime of being 
intelligent. The normal man, the healthy and honest 
man, the good citizen and householder — this man, I 
daresay, knows nothing of all that travail. It is 
reserved especially for artists and metaphysicians. 
It is the particular penalty of those who pursue strange 
butterflies into dark forests, and go fishing in en- 
chanted and forbidden streams. 

Let us, then, assume that the fact is proved: the 
nearest poet is a witness to it. But what of the under- 
lying mystery? How are we to account for that 
puckish and inexplicable rise and fall of inspiration? 



158 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

My questions, of course, are purely rhetorical. Ex- 
planations exist; they have existed for all time; there 
is always a well-known solution to every human 
problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. The ancients, 
in the case at bar, laid the blame upon the gods: 
sometimes they were remote and surly, and sometimes 
they were kind. In the Middle Ages lesser powers 
took a hand in the matter, and so one reads of works 
of art inspired by Our Lady, by the Blessed Saints, 
by the souls of the departed, and even by the devil. 
In our own day there are explanations less super- 
natural but no less fanciful — to wit, the explanation 
that the whole thing is a matter of pure chance, and 
not to be resolved into any orderly process — to wit, 
the explanation that the controlling factor is external 
circumstance, that the artist happily married to a 
dutiful wife is thereby inspired — finally, to make an 
end, the explanation that it is all a question of Freu- 
dian complexes, themselves lurking in impenetrable 
shadows. But all of these explanations fail to satisfy 
the mind that is not to be put off with mere words. 
Some of them are palpably absurd; others beg the 
question. The problem of the how remains, even 
when the problem of the why is disposed of. What 
is the precise machinery whereby the cerebrum is 
bestirred to such abnormal activity on one day that 
it sparkles and splutters like an arclight, and reduced 



THE DIVINE AF FLAWS 159 

to such feebleness on another day that it smokes and 
gutters like a tallow dip? 

In this emergency, having regard for the ages-long 
and unrelieved sufferings of artists great and small, 
I offer a new, simple, and at all events not ghostly 
solution. It is supported by the observed facts, by 
logical analogies and by the soundest known prin- 
ciples of psychology, and so I present it without apolo- 
gies. It may be couched, for convenience, in the 
following brief terms: that inspiration, so-called, is 
a function of metabolism, and that it is chiefly con- 
ditioned by the state of the intestinal flora — in larger 
words, that a man's flow of ideas is controlled and 
determined, both quantitatively and qualitatively, not 
by the whims of the gods, nor by the terms of his armis- 
tice with his wife, nor by the combinations of some 
transcendental set of dice, but by the chemical content 
of the blood that lifts itself from his liver to his brain, 
and that this chemical content is established in his 
digestive tract, particularly south of the pylorus. A 
man may write great poetry when he is drunk, when 
he is cold and miserable, when he is bankrupt, when 
he has a black eye, when his wife glowers at him 
across the table, when his children lie dying of 
smallpox; he may even write it during an earthquake, 
or while crossing the English channel, or in the midst 
of a Methodist revival, or in New York. But I am so 



160 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

far gone in materialism that I am disposed to deny- 
flatly and finally, and herewith do deny flatly and 
finally, that there has lived a poet in the whole history 
of the world, ancient or modern, near or far, who 
ever managed to write great poetry, or even passably- 
fair and decent poetry, at a time when he was suffer- 
ing from stenosis at any point along the thirty-foot 
via dolorosa running from the pylorus to the sigmoid 
flexure. In other words, when he was — 

But perhaps I had better leave your medical adviser 
to explain. After all, it is not necessary to go any 
further in this direction; the whole thing may be 
argued in terms of the blood stream — and the blood 
stream is respectable, as the duodenum is an outcast. 
It is the blood and the blood only, in fact, that the 
cerebrum is aware of; of what goes on elsewhere it 
can learn only by hearsay. If all is well below, then 
the blood that enters the brain through the internal 
carotid is full of the elements necessary to bestir the 
brain-cells to their highest activity; if, on the contrary, 
anabolism and katabolism are going on ineptly, if the 
blood is not getting the supplies that it needs and not 
getting rid of the wastes that burden it, then the brain- 
cells will be both starved and poisoned, and not all 
the king's horses and all the king's men can make 
them do their work with any show of ease and effi- 
ciency. In the first case the man whose psyche dwells 
in the cells will have a moment of inspiration — that 



THE DIVINE AF FLAWS 161 

is, he will find it a strangely simple and facile matter 
to write his poem, or iron out his syllogism, or make 
his bold modulation from F sharp minor to C major, 
or get his flesh-tone, or maybe only perfect his swindle. 
But in the second case he will be stumped and help- 
less. The more he tries, the more vividly he will be 
conscious of his impotence. Sweat will stand out in 
beads upon his brow, he will fish patiently for the 
elusive thought, he will try coaxing and subterfuge, 
he will retire to his ivory tower, he will tempt the 
invisible powers with black coffee, tea, alcohol and 
the alkaloids, he may even curse God and invite death 
— but he will not write his poem, or iron out his syl- 
logism, or find his way into C major, or get his flesh- 
tone, or perfect his swindle. 

Fix your eye upon this hypothesis of metabolic 
inspiration, and at once you will find the key to many 
a correlative mystery. For one thing, it quickly ex- 
plains the observed hopelessness of trying to pump 
up inspiration by mere hard industry — the essential 
imbecility of the 1,000 words a day formula. Let 
there be stenosis below, and not all the industry of a 
Hercules will suffice to awaken the lethargic brain. 
Here, indeed, the harder the striving, the worse the 
stagnation — as every artist knows only too well. And 
why not? Striving in the face of such an interior 
obstacle is the most cruel of enterprises — a business 
more nerve-wracking and exhausting than reading a 



162 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

newspaper or watching a bad play. The pain thus 
produced, the emotions thus engendered, react upon 
the liver in a manner scientifically displayed by Dr. 
George W. Crile in his "Man: An Adaptive Mechan- 
ism," and the result is a steady increase in the intes- 
tinal demoralization, and a like increase in the pollu- 
tion of the blood. In the end the poor victim comes 
to a familiar pass; beset on the one hand by impo- 
tence and on the other hand by an impatience grown 
pathological, he gets into a state indistinguishable 
from the frantic. It is at such times that creative 
artists suffer most atrociously. It is then that they 
writhe upon the sharp spears and red-hot hooks of 
a jealous and unjust Creator for their invasion of 
His monopoly. It is then that they pay a grisly super- 
tax upon their superiority to the great herd of law- 
abiding and undistinguished men. The men of this 
herd never undergo any comparable torture ; the agony 
of the artist is quite beyond their experience and even 
beyond their imagination. No catastrophe that could 
conceivably overtake a lime and cement dealer, a 
curb broker, a lawyer, a plumber or a Presbyterian 
is to be mentioned in the same breath with the torments 
that, to the most minor of poets, are familiar incidents 
of his professional life, and, to such a man as Poe, 
or Beethoven, or Brahms, are the commonplaces of 
every day. Beethoven suffered more during the 
composition of the Fifth symphony than all the judges 



THE DIVINE AFFLATUS 163 

on the supreme benches of the world have suffered 
jointly since the time of the Gerousia. 

Again, my hypothesis explains the fact that inspira- 
tion, save under extraordinary circumstances, is never 
continuous for more than a relatively short period. 
A banker, a barber or a manufacturer of patent medi- 
cines does his work day after day without any notice- 
able rise or fall of efficiency; save when he is drunk, 
jailed or ill in bed the curve of his achievement is 
flattened out until it becomes almost a straight line. 
But the curve of an artist, even of the greatest of 
artists, is frightfully zig-zagged. There are moments 
when it sinks below the bottom of the chart, and im- 
mediately following there may be moments when it 
threatens to run off the top. Some of the noblest 
passages written by Shakespeare are in his worst plays, 
cheek by jowl with padding and banality; some of 
the worst music of Wagner is in his finest music 
dramas. There is, indeed, no such thing as a flawless 
masterpiece. Long labored, it may be gradually en- 
riched with purple passages — -the high inspirations of 
widely separated times crowded together — , but even 
so it will remain spotty, for those purple passages will 
be clumsily joined, and their joints will remain as ap- 
parent as so many false teeth. Only the most ele- 
mentary knowledge of psychology is needed to show 
the cause of the zig-zagging that I have mentioned. 
It lies in the elemental fact that the chemical consti- 



164 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

tution of the blood changes every hour, almost every 
minute. What it is at the beginning of digestion is 
not what it is at the end of digestion, and in both 
cases it is enormously affected by the nature of the 
substances digested. No man, within twenty-four 
hours after eating a meal in a Pennsylvania Railroad 
dining-car, could conceivably write anything worth 
reading. A tough beefsteak, I daresay, has ditched 
many a promising sonnet, and bad beer, as every one 
knows, has spoiled hundreds of sonatas. Thus in- 
spiration rises and falls, and even when it rises twice 
to the same height it usually shows some qualitative 
difference — there is the inspiration, say, of Spring 
vegetables and there is the inspiration of Autumn 
fruits. In a long work the products of greatly differ- 
ing inspirations, of greatly differing streams of blood, 
are hideously intermingled, and the result is the in- 
evitable spottiness that I have mentioned. No one 
but a maniac argues that "Die Meistersinger" is all 
good. One detects in it days when Wagner felt, as 
the saying goes, like a fighting cock, but one also 
detects days when he arose in the morning full of 
acidosis and despair — days when he turned heavily 
from the Pierian spring to castor oil. 

Moreover, it must be obvious that the very condi- 
tions under which works of art are produced tend to 
cause great aberrations in metabolism. The artist 
is forced by his calling to be a sedentary man. Even 






THE DIVINE AFFLATUS 165 

a poet, perhaps the freest of artists, must spend a 
good deal of time bending over a desk. He may con- 
ceive his poems in the open air, as Beethoven conceived 
his music, but the work of reducing them to actual 
words requires diligent effort in camera. Here it 
is a sheer impossibility for him to enjoy the ideal 
hygienic conditions which surround the farmhand, the 
curb-broker and the sailor. His viscera are con- 
gested; his eyes are astrain; his muscles are without 
necessary exercise. Furthermore, he probably 
breathes bad air and goes without needed sleep. The 
result is inevitably some disturbance of metabolism, 
with a vitiated blood supply and a starved cerebrum. 
One is always surprised to encounter a poet who is 
ruddy and stout; the standard model is a pale and 
flabby stenotic, kept alive by patent medicines. So 
with the painter, the musical composer, the sculptor, 
the artist in prose. There is no more confining work 
known to man than instrumentation. The composer 
who has spent a day at it is invariably nervous and ill. 
For hours his body is bent over his music-paper, the 
while his pen engrosses little dots upon thin lines. 
I have known composers, after a week or so of such 
labor, to come down with auto-intoxication in its most 
virulent forms. Perhaps the, notorious ill health 
of Beethoven, and the mental break-downs of Schu- 
mann, Tschaikowsky and Hugo Wolf had their origin 
in this direction. It is difficult, going through the 



166 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

history of music, to find a single composer in the 
grand manner who was physically and mentally up to 
par. 

I do not advance it as a formal corollary, but no 
doubt this stenosis hypothesis also throws some light 
upon two other immemorial mysteries, the first being 
the relative aesthetic sterility of women, and the other 
being the low aesthetic development of certain whole 
classes, and even races of men, e. g., the Puritans, the 
Welsh and the Confederate Americans. That women 
suffer from stenosis far more than men is a common- 
place of internal medicine; the weakness is chiefly to 
blame, rather than the functional peculiarities that 
they accuse, for their liability to headache. A good 
many of them, in fact, are habitually in the state of 
health which, in the artist, is accompanied by an utter 
inability to work. This state of health, as I have said, 
does not inhibit all mental activity. It leaves the 
powers of observation but little impaired; it does 
not corrupt common sense; it is not incompatible 
with an intelligent discharge of the ordinary duties 
of life. Thus a lime and cement dealer, in the 
midst of it, may function almost as well as when 
his metabolic processes are perfectly normal, and 
by the same token a woman chronically a victim 
to it may yet show all the sharp mental competence 
which characterizes her sex. But here the thing 
stops. To go beyond — to enter the realm of 



THE DIVINE AF FLAWS 167 

constructive thinking, to abandon the mere application 
of old ideas and essay to invent new ideas, to precip- 
itate novel and intellectual concepts out of the chaos 
of memory and perception — this is quite impossible 
to the stenotic. Ergo, it is unheard of among classes 
and races of men who feed grossly and neglect per- 
sonal hygiene; the pill-swallower is the only artist 
in such groups. One may thus argue that the elder 
Beecham saved poetry in England, as the younger 
Beecham saved music. . . . But, as I say, I do not 
stand behind the hypothesis in this department, save, 
perhaps, in the matter of women. I could amass 
enormous evidences in favor of it, but against them 
there would always loom the disconcerting contrary 
evidence of the Bulgarians. Among them, I suppose 
stenosis must be unknown — but so are all the fine arts 
"La force et la foiblesse de l'esprit," said Roche 
foucauld, "sont mal nominees; elles ne sont, en effect 
que la bonne ou la mauvaise des organes du corps.' 
Science wastes itself hunting in the other direction. 
We are flooded with evidences of the effects of the 
mind on the body, and so our attention is diverted 
from the enormously greater effects of the body en the 
mind. It is rather astonishing that the Wassermann 
reaction has not caused the latter to be investigated 
more thoroughly. The first result of the general em- 
ployment of that great diagnostic device was the dis- 
covery that thousands of cases of so-called mental 



168 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

disease were really purely physical in origin — that 
thousands of patients long supposed to have been 
crazed by seeing ghosts, by love, by grief, or by re- 
verses in the stock-market were actually victims of the 
small but extremely enterprising spirochaete pallida. 
The news heaved a bomb into psychiatry, but it has 
so far failed to provoke a study of the effects of other 
such physical agents. Even the effects of this one 
agent remain to be inquired into at length. One now 
knows that it may cause insanity, but what of the 
lesser mental aberrations that it produces? Some of 
these aberrations may be actually beneficial. That 
is to say, the mild toxemia accompanying the less 
virulent forms of infection may stimulate the brain 
to its highest functioning, and so give birth to what 
is called genius — a state of mind long recognized, by 
popular empiricism, as a sort of half-way station on 
the road to insanity. Beethoven, Nietzsche and 
Schopenhauer suffered from such mild toxemias, and 
there is not the slightest doubt that their extraordinary 
mental activity was at least partly due to the fact. 
That tuberculosis, in its early stages, is capable of the 
same stimulation is a commonplace of observation. 
The consumptive may be weak physically, but he is 
usually very alert mentally. The history of the arts, 
in fact, shows the names of hundreds of inspired con- 
sumptives. 

Here a physical infirmity produces a result that is 



THE DIVINE AFFLATUS 169 

beneficial, just as another physical infirmity, the 
stenosis aforesaid, produces a result that is baleful. 
The artist often oscillates horribly between the two 
effects ; he is normally anything but a healthy animal. 
Perfect health, indeed, is a boon that very few men 
above the rank of clodhoppers ever enjoy. What 
health means is a degree of adaptation to the organ- 
ism's environment so nearly complete that there is no 
irritation. Such a state, it must be obvious, is not 
often to be observed in organisms of the highest com- 
plexity. It is common, perhaps, in the earthworm. 
This elemental beast makes few demands upon its 
environment, and is thus subject to few diseases. It 
seldom gets out of order until the sands of its life 
are run, and then it suffers one grand illness and dies 
forthwith. But man is forever getting out of order, 
for he is enormously complicated — and the higher 
he rises in complexity, the more numerous and the 
more serious are his derangements. There are whole 
categories of diseases, e. g., neurasthenia and hay- 
fever, that afflict chiefly the more civilized and delicate 
ranks of men, leaving the inferior orders unscathed. 
Good health in man, indeed, is almost invariably a 
function of inferiority. A professionally healthy 
man, e. g. 9 an acrobat, an osteopath or an ice-wagon 
driver, is always stupid. In the Greece of the great 
days the athletes we hear so much about were mainly 
slaves. Not one of the eminent philosophers, poets or 



170 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

statesmen of Greece was a good high-jumper. Nearly 
all of them, in fact, suffered from the same malaises 
which afflict their successors of to-day, as you will 
quickly discern by examining their compositions. 
The aesthetic impulse, like the thirst for truth, might 
almost be called a disease. It seldom if ever ap- 
pears in a perfectly healthy man. 

But we must take the aloes with the honey. The 
artist suffers damnably, but there is compensation in 
his dreams. Some of his characteristic diseases 
cripple him and make his whole life a misery, but 
there are others that seem to help him. Of the latter, 
the two that I have mentioned carry with them concepts 
of extreme obnoxiousness. Both are infections, and 
one is associated in the popular mind with notions 
or gross immorality. But these concepts of obnox- 
iousness should not blind us to the benefits that appar- 
ently go with the maladies. There are, in fact, mala- 
dies much more obnoxious, and they carry no com- 
pensating benefits. Cancer is an example. Perhaps 
the time will come when the precise effects of these 
diseases will be worked out accurately, and it will 
be possible to gauge in advance their probable influ- 
ence upon this or that individual. If that time ever 
comes the manufacture of artists will become a 
feasible procedure, like the present manufacture of 
soldiers, capons, right-thinkers and doctors of philos- 
ophy. In those days the promising young men of 



THE DIVINE AF FLAWS 171 

the race, instead of being protected from such diseases 
at all hazards, will be deliberately infected with them, 
as soils are now inoculated with nitrogen-liberating 
bacteria. ... At the same time, let us hope, some 
progress will be made against stenosis. It is, after 
all, simply a question of technique, like the artificial 
propagation of the race by the device of Dr. Jacques 
Loeb. The poet of the future, come upon a period 
of doldrums, will not tear his hair in futile agony. 
Instead, he will go to the nearest clinic, and there get 
his rasher of Bulgarian bacilli, or an injection of 
some complex organic compound out of a ductless 
gland, or an order on a masseur, or a diet list, or 
perchance a barrel of Russian oil. 



V. SCIENTIFIC EXAMINATION 
OF A POPULAR VIRTUE 

AN old Corpsbruder, assaulting my ear lately 
with an abstruse tale of his sister's husband's 
brother's ingratitude, ended by driving me 
quite out of his house, firmly resolved to be his 
acquaintance no longer. The exact offense I heard 
inattentively, and have already partly forgotten — 
an obscure tort arising out of a lawsuit. My ex- 
friend, it appears, was appealed to for help in a bad 
case by his grapevine relative, and so went on the 
stand for him and swore gallantly to some complex 
and unintelligible lie. Later on, essaying to cash in 
on the perjury, he asked the fellow to aid him in 
some domestic unpleasantness, and was refused on 
grounds of morals. Hence his indignation — and my 
spoiled evening. . . . 

What is one to think of a man so asinine that he 
looks for gratitude in this world, or so puerilely 
egotistical that he enjoys it when found? The truth 
is that the sentiment itself is not human but doggish, 
and that the man who demands it in payment for his 
doings is precisely the sort of man who feels noble 
and distinguished when a dog licks his hand. What 

172 



A POPULAR VIRTUE 173 

a man says when he expresses gratitude is simply 
this : "You did something for me that I could not have 
done myself. Ergo, you are my superior. Hail, 
Durchlaucht!" Such a confession, whether true or 
not, is degrading to the confessor, and so it is very 
hard to make, at all events for a man of self-respect. 
That is why such a man always makes it clumsily and 
with many blushes and hesitations. It is hard for 
him to put so embarrassing a doctrine into plain 
words. And that is why the business is equally un- 
comfortable to the party of the other part. It dis- 
tresses him to see a human being of decent instincts 
standing before him in so ignominious a position. He 
is as flustered as if the fellow came in handcuffs, or 
in rags, or wearing the stripes of a felon. Moreover, 
his confusion is helped out by his inward knowledge 
— very clear if he is introspective, and plain enough 
even if he is not — that he really deserves no such 
tribute to his high mightiness; that the altruism for 
which he is being praised was really bogus ; that he did 
the thing behind the gratitude which now assails him, 
not for any grand and lofty reason, but for a purely 
selfish and inferior reason, to wit, for the reason that 
it pleases all of us to show what we can do when an 
appreciative audience is present; that we delight to 
exercise our will to power when it is safe and prof- 
itable. This is the primary cause of the benefits 
which inspire gratitude, real and pretended. This is 



174 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

the fact at the bottom of altruism. Find me a man 
who is always doing favors for people and I will show 
you a man of petty vanity, forever trying to get fuel 
for it in the cheapest way. And find me a man who 
is notoriously grateful in habit and I'll show you a 
man who is essentially third rate and who is conscious 
of it at the bottom of his heart. The man of genuine 
self-respect — which means the man who is more or 
less accurately aware, not only of his own value, but 
also and more importantly, of his own limitations — 
tries to avoid entering either class. He hesitates to 
demonstrate his superiority by such banal means, and 
he shrinks from confessing an inferiority that he 
doesn't believe in. 

Nevertheless, the popular morality of the world, 
which is the creation, not of its superior men but of its 
botches and half-men — in brief, of its majorities — 
puts a high value on gratitude and denounces the with- 
holding of it as an offense against the proprieties. 
To be noticeably ungrateful for benefits — that is, for 
the by-products of the egotism of others — is to be dis- 
liked. To tell a tale of ingratitude is to take on the 
aspect of a martyr to the defects of others, to get 
sympathy in an affliction. All of us are responsive 
to such ideas, however much we may resent them 
logically. One may no more live in the world without 
picking up the moral prejudices of the world than 
one will be able to go to hell without perspiring. . . . 



A POPULAR VIRTUE 175 

Let me recall a case within my own recent experi- 
ence. One day I received a letter from a young 
woman I had never heard of before, asking me to read 
the manuscripts of two novels that she had written. 
She represented that she had venerated my critical 
parts for a long while, and that her whole future career 
in letters would be determined by my decision as to 
her talents. The daughter of a man apparently of 
some consequence in some sordid business or other, 
she asked me to meet her at her father's office, and 
there to impart to her, under socially aseptic condi- 
tions, my advice. Having a standing rule against 
meeting women authors, even in their fathers' banks 
and soap factories, I pleaded various imaginary en- 
gagements, but finally agreed, after a telephone 
debate, to read her manuscripts. They arrived 
promptly and I found them to be wholly without 
merit — in fact, the veriest twaddle. Nevertheless I 
plowed through them diligently, wasted half an hour 
at the job, wrote a polite letter of counsel and re- 
turned the manuscripts to her house, paying a blacka- 
moor 50 cents to haul them. 

By all ordinary standards, an altruistic service 
and well deserving some show of gratitude. Had she 
knitted me a pair of pulse-warmers it would have 
seemed meet and proper. Even a copy of the poems 
of Alfred Noyes would not have been too much. At 
the very least I expected a note of thanks. Well, 



176 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

not a word has ever reached me. For all my labori- 
ous politeness and disagreeable labor my reward is 
exactly nil. The lady is improved by my counsel — 
and I am shocked by her gross ingratitude. . . . That 
is, conventionally, superficially, as a member of 
society in good standing. But when on sour after- 
noons I roll the affair in my mind, examining, not the 
mere surface of it but the inner workings and anatomy 
of it, my sense of outrage gradually melts and fades 
away — the inevitable recompense of skepticism. 
What I see clearly is that I was an ass to succumb to 
the blandishments of this discourteous miss, and that 
she was quite right in estimating my service trivially, 
and out of that clear seeing comes consolation, and 
amusement, and, in the end, even satisfaction. I 
got exactly what I deserved. And she, whether con- 
sciously or merely instinctively, measured out the dose 
with excellent accuracy. 

Let us go back. Why did I waste two hours, or 
maybe three, reading those idiotic manuscripts? 
Why, in the first place, did I answer her opening 
request — the request, so inherently absurd, that I 
meet her in her father's office? For a very plain 
reason: she accompanied it with flattery. What she 
said, in effect, was that she regarded me as a critic 
of the highest talents, and this ludicrous cajolery — 
sound, I dare say, in substance, but reduced to naught 
by her obvious obscurity and stupidity — was quite 



A POPULAR VIRTUE 177 

enough to fetch me. In brief, she assumed that, being 
a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this 
assumption was correct, as it always is. To help out, 
there was the concept of romantic adventure vaguely 
floating in my mind. Her voice, as I heard it by 
telephone, was agreeable; her appearance, since she 
seemed eager to show herself, I probably judged 
(subconsciously) to be at least not revolting. Thus 
curiosity got on its legs, and vanity in another form. 
Am I fat and half decrepit, a man seldom noticed 
by cuties? Then so much the more reason why I 
should respond. The novelty of an apparently 
comely and respectable woman desiring to witness 
me finished what the primary (and very crude) appeal 
to my vanity had begun. I was, in brief, not only the 
literary popinjay but also the eternal male — and hard 
at the immemorial folly of the order. 

Now turn to the gal and her ingratitude. The 
more I inspect it the more I became convinced that 
it is not discreditable to her, but highly creditable — 
that she demonstrates a certain human dignity, de- 
spite her imbecile writings, by exhibiting it. Would 
a show of gratitude put her in a better light? I doubt 
it. That gratitude, considering the unfavorable re- 
port I made on her manuscripts, would be doubly 
invasive of her amour propre. On the one hand it 
would involve a confession that my opinion of her 
literary gifts was better than her own, and that I was 



178 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

thus her superior. And on the other hand it would 
involve a confession that my own actual writings 
(being got into print without aid) were better than 
hers, and that I was thus her superior again. Each 
confession would bring her into an attitude of abase- 
ment, and the two together would make her position 
intolerable. Moreover, both would be dishonest: she 
would privately believe in neither doctrine. As for 
my opinion, its hostility to her aspiration is obviously 
enough to make her ego dismiss it as false, for no 
organism acquiesces in its own destruction. And as 
for my relative worth as a literary artist, she must 
inevitably put it very low, for it depends, in the last 
analysis, upon my dignity and sagacity as a man, and 
she has proved by experiment, and quite easily, that 
I am almost as susceptible to flattery as a moving 
picture actor, and hence surely no great shakes. 

Thus there is not the slightest reason in the world 
why the fair creature should knit me a pair of pulse- 
warmers or send me the poems of Noyes, or even write 
me a polite note. If she did any of these things, she 
would feel herself a hypocrite and hence stand embar- 
rassed before the mirror of her own thoughts. Con- 
fronted by a choice between this sort of shame and the 
incomparably less uncomfortable shame of violat- 
ing a social convention and an article of popular 
morals, secretly and without danger of exposure, she 
very sensibly chooses the more innocuous of the two. 



A POPULAR VIRTUE 179 

At the very start, indeed, she set up barriers against 
gratitude, for her decision to ask a favor of me was, 
in a subtle sense, a judgment of my inferiority. 
One does not ask favors, if it can be avoided, of 
persons one genuinely respects ; one puts such burdens 
upon the naive and colorless, upon what are called 
the good natured; in brief, upon one's inferiors. 
When that girl first thought of me as a possible aid 
to her literary aspiration she thought of me (perhaps 
vaguely, but none the less certainly) as an inferior 
fortuitously outfitted with a body of puerile technical 
information and competence, of probable use to her. 
This unfavorable view was immediately reenforced by 
her discovery of my vanity. 

In brief, she showed and still shows the great in- 
stinctive sapience of her sex. She is female, and 
hence far above the nonsensical delusions, vanities, 
conventions and moralities of men. 



VI. EXEUNT OMNES 

ONE of the hardest jobs that faces an American 
magazine editor in this, the one-hundred-and 
forty-fifth year of the Republic, is that of 
keeping the minnesingers of the land from filling his 
magazine with lugubrious dithyrambs to, on and 
against somatic death. Of spiritual death, of course, 
not many of them ever sing. Most of them, in fact, 
deny its existence in plain terms; they are all sure of 
the immortality of the soul, and in particular they are 
absolutely sure of the immortality of their own souls, 
and of those of their best girls. In this department 
the most they ever allow to the materialism of the 
herds that lie bogged in prose is such a benefit of the 
half doubt as one finds in Christina Rossetti's "When 
I am Dead." But when it comes to somatic death, 
the plain brutal death of coroners' inquests and vital 
statistics, their optimism vanishes, and, try as they 
may, they can't get around the harsh fact that on such 
and such a day, often appallingly near, each and every 
one of us will heave a last sigh, roll his eyes despair- 
ingly, turn his face to the wall and then suddenly 
change from a proud and highly complex mammal, 
made in the image of God, to a mere inert aggregate 

180 



EXEUNT OMNES 181 

of disintegrating colloids, made in the image of a 
stale cabbage. 

The inevitability of it seems to fascinate them. 
They write about it more than they write about any- 
thing else save love. Every day my editorial desk is 
burdened with their manuscripts — poems in which the 
poet serves notice that, when his time comes, he will 
die bravely and even a bit insolently ; poems in which 
he warns his mistress that he will wait for her on the 
roof of the cosmos and keep his harp in tune ; poems 
in which he asks her grandly to forget him, and, above 
all, to avoid torturing herself by vain repining at his 
grave ; poems in which he directs his heirs and assigns 
to bury him in some lonely, romantic spot, where the 
whippoorwills sing; poems in which he hints that he 
will not rest easily if Philistines are permitted to be- 
gaud his last anchorage with couronnes des perles; 
poems in which he speaks jauntily of making a rendez- 
vous with death, as if death were a wench; poems in 
which — 

But there is no need to rehearse the varieties. If 
you read the strophes that are strung along the bottoms 
of magazine pages you are familiar with all of them ; 
even in the great moral periodical that I help to edit, 
despite my own excessive watchfulness and Dr. 
Nathan's general theory that both death and poetry 
are nuisances and in bad taste, they have appeared 
multitudinously, no doubt to the disgust of the Intel- 



182 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

ligentsia. As I say, it is almost impossible to keep 
the minnesingers off the subject. When my negro 
flops the morning bale of poetry manuscripts upon my 
desk and I pull up my chair to have at them, I always 
make a bet with myself that, of the first dozen, at 
least seven will deal with death — and it is so long 
since I lost that I don't remember it. Periodically 
I send out a circular to all the recognized poets of 
the land, begging them in the name of God to be less 
mortuary, but it never does any good. More, I doubt 
that it ever will — or any other sort of appeal. Take 
away death and love and you would rob poets of both 
their liver and their lights ; what would remain would 
be little more than a feeble gurgle in an illimitable 
void. For the business of poetry, remember, is to 
set up a sweet denial of the harsh facts that confront 
all of us — to soothe us in our agonies with emollient 
words — in brief, to lie sonorously and reassuringly. 
Well, what is the worst curse of life? Answer: the 
abominable magnetism that draws unlikes and incom- 
patibles into delirious and intolerable conjunction — 
the kinetic over-stimulation called love. And what 
is the next worst? Answer: the fear of death. No 
wonder the poets give so much attention to both! 
No other foe of human peace and happiness is one- 
half so potent, and hence none other offers such oppor- 
tunities to poetry, and, in fact, to all art. A sonnet 
designed to ease the dread of bankruptcy, even if 



EXEUNT OMNES 183 

done by a great master, would be banal, for that dread 
is itself banal, and so is bankruptcy. The same may 
be said of the old fear of hell, now no more. There 
was a day when this latter raged in the breast of nearly 
every man — and in that day the poets produced anti- 
dotes that were very fine poems. But to-day only the 
elect and anointed of God fear hell, and so there is 
no more production of sound poetry in that depart- 
ment. 

As I have hinted, I tire of reading so much necrotic 
verse in manuscript, and wish heartily that the poets 
would cease to assault me with it. In prose, curi- 
ously enough, one observes a corresponding shortage. 
True enough, the short story of commerce shows a 
good many murders and suicides, and not less than 
eight times a day I am made privy to the agonies of a 
widower or widow who, on searching the papers of 
his wife or her husband immediately after her or his 
death, discovers that she or he had a lover or a mis- 
tress. But I speak of serious prose: not of trade 
balderdash. Go to any public library and look un- 
der "Death: Human" in the card index, and you 
will be surprised to find how few books there are on 
the subject. Worse, nearly all the few are by psy- 
chical researchers who regard death as a mere re- 
moval from one world to another or by New Thought- 
ers who appear to believe that it is little more than a 
sort of illusion. Once, seeking to find out what death 



184 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

was physiologically — that is, to find out just what 
happened when a man died — I put in a solid week 
without result. There seemed to be nothing what- 
ever on the subject even in the medical libraries. 
Finally, after much weariness, I found what I was 
looking for in Dr. George W. Crile's "Man: An 
Adaptive Mechanism" — incidentally, a very solid and 
original work, much less heard of than it ought to be. 
Crile said that death was acidosis — that it was caused 
by the failure of the organism to maintain the alka- 
linity necessary to its normal functioning — and in 
the absence of any proofs or even arguments to the 
contrary I accepted his notion forthwith and have 
held to it ever since. I thus think of death as a sort 
of deleterious fermentation, like that which goes on 
in a bottle of Chateau Margaux when it becomes 
corked. Life is a struggle, not against sin, not 
against the Money Power, not against malicious 
animal magnetism, but against hydrogen ions. 
The healthy man is one in whom those ions, 
as they are dissociated by cellular activity, are im- 
mediately fixed by alkaline bases. The sick man is 
one in whom the process has begun to lag, with the 
hydrogen ions getting ahead. The dying man is one 
in whom it is all over save the charges of fraud. 

But here I get into chemical physics, and not only 
run afoul of revelation but also reveal, perhaps, a 
degree of ignorance verging upon intellectual coma. 



EXEUNT OMNES 185 

The thing I started out to do was to call attention to 
the only full-length and first-rate treatise on death that 
I have ever encountered or heard of, to wit, "Aspects 
of Death and Correlated Aspects of Life," by Dr. 
F. Parkes Weber, a fat, hefty and extremely interest- 
ing tome, the fruit of truly stupendous erudition. 
What Dr. Weber has attempted is to bring together in 
one volume all that has been said or thought about 
death since the time of the first human records, not 
only by poets, priests and philosophers, but also by 
painters, engravers, soldiers, monarchs and the popu- 
lace generally. The author, I take it, is primarily a 
numismatist, and he apparently began his work with 
a collection of inscriptions on coins and medals. 
But as it stands it covers a vastly wider area. One 
traces, in chapter after chapter, the ebb and flow of 
human ideas upon the subject, of the human attitude 
to the last and greatest mystery of them all — the no- 
tion of it as a mere transition to a higher plane of life, 
the notion of it as a benign panacea for all human 
suffering, the notion of it as an incentive to this or 
that way of living, the notion of it as an impenetrable 
enigma, inevitable and inexplicable. Few of us quite 
realize how much the contemplation of death has col- 
ored human thought throughout the ages. There 
have been times when it almost shut out all other con- 
cerns; there has never been a time when it has not 
bulked enormously in the racial consciousness. 



186 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Well, what Dr. Weber does in his book is to detach 
and set forth the salient ideas that have emerged 
from all that consideration and discussion — to isolate 
the chief theories of death, ancient and modern, pagan 
and Christian, scientific and mystical, sound and 
absurd. 

The material thus digested is appallingly copious. 
If the learned author had confined himself to printed 
books alone, he would have faced a labor fit for a new 
Hercules. But in addition to books he has given his 
attention to prints, to medals, to paintings, to en- 
graved gems and to monumental inscriptions. His 
authorities range from St. John on what is to happen 
at the Day of Judgment to Sir William Osier on what 
happens upon the normal human death-bed, and from 
Socrates on the relation of death to philosophy to 
Havelock Ellis on the effects of Christian ideas of 
death upon the mediaeval temperament. The one field 
that Dr. Weber has overlooked is that of music, a 
somewhat serious omission. It is hard to think of a 
great composer who never wrote a funeral march, or 
a requiem, or at least a sad song to some departed 
love. Even old Papa Haydn had moments when he 
ceased to be merry, and let his thought turn stealthily 
upon the doom ahead. To me, at all events, the slow 
movement of the Military Symphony is the saddest 
of music — an elegy, I take it, on some young fellow 
who went out in the incomprehensible wars of those 



EXEUNT OMNES 187 

times and got himself horribly killed in a far place. 
The trumpet blasts towards the end fling themselves 
over his hasty grave in a remote cabbage field; one 
hears, before and after them, the honest weeping of 
his comrades into their wine-pots. In truth, the 
shadow of death hangs over all the music of Haydn, 
despite its lightheartedness. Life was gay in those 
last days of the Holy Roman Empire, but it was also 
precarious. If the Turks were not at the gate, then 
there was a peasant rising somewhere in the hinter- 
land, or a pestilence swept the land. Beethoven, a 
generation later, growled at death surlily, but Haydn 
faced it like a gentleman. The romantic movement 
brought a sentimentalization of the tragedy; it be- 
came a sort of orgy. Whenever Wagner dealt with 
death he treated it as if it were some sort of gaudy 
tournament — a thing less dreadful than ecstatic. 
Consider, for example, the Char-Freitag music in 
"Parsifal" — death music for the most memorable 
death in the history of the world. Surely no one 
hearing it for the first time, without previous warning, 
would guess that it had to do with anything so grue- 
some as a crucifixion. On the contrary, I have a no- 
tion that the average auditor would guess that it was 
a musical setting for some lamentable fornication be- 
tween a Bayreuth baritone seven feet in height and a 
German soprano weighing at least three hundred 
pounds. 



188 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

But if Dr. Weber thus neglects music, he at least 
gives full measure in all other departments. His 
hook, in fact, is encyclopaedic; he almost exhausts the 
subject. One idea, however, I do not find in it: the 
conception of death as the last and worst of all the 
practical jokes played upon poor mortals by the gods. 
That idea apparently never occurred to the Greeks, 
who thought of almost everything, but nevertheless it 
has an ingratiating plausibility. The hardest thing 
about death is not that men die tragically, but that 
most of them die ridiculously. If it were possible for 
all of us to make our exits at great moments, swiftly, 
cleanly, decorously, and in fine attitudes, then the 
experience would be something to face heroically and 
with high and beautiful words. But we commonly go 
off in no such gorgeous, poetical way. Instead, we 
die in raucous prose — of arterio-sclerosis, of diabetes, 
of toxemia, of a noisome perforation in the ileo-caecal 
region, of carcinoma of the liver. The abominable 
acidosis of Dr. Crile sneaks upon us, gradually par- 
alyzing the adrenals, flabbergasting the thyroid, crip- 
pling the poor old liver, and throwing its fog upon 
the brain. Thus the ontogenetic process is recapitu- 
lated in reverse order, and we pass into the mental 
obscurity of infancy, and then into the blank uncon- 
sciousness of the prenatal state, and finally into the 
condition of undifferentiated protoplasm. A man 
does not die quickly and brilliantly, like a lightning 



EXEUNT OMNES 189 

stroke; he passes out by inches, hesitatingly and, one 
may almost add, gingerly. It is hard to say just 
whew he is fully dead. Long after his heart has 
ceased to beat and his lungs have ceased to swell him 
up with the vanity of his species, there are remote 
and obscure parts of him that still live on, quite un- 
concerned about the central catastrophe. Dr. Alexis 
Carrel has cut them out and kept them alive for 
months. The hair keeps on growing for a long while. 
Every time another one of the corpses of Barbarossa 
or King James I is examined it is found that the hair 
is longer than it was the last time. No doubt there 
are many parts of the body, and perhaps even whole 
organs, which wonder what it is all about when they 
find that they are on the way to the crematory. Burn 
a man's mortal remains, and you inevitably burn a 
good portion of him alive, and no doubt that portion 
sends alarmed messages to the unconscious brain, like 
dissected tissue under anaesthesia, and the resultant 
shock brings the deceased before the hierarchy of 
heaven in a state of collapse, with his face white, 
sweat bespangling his forehead and a great thirst 
upon him. It would not be pulling the nose of reason 
to argue that many a cremated Sunday-school super- 
intendent thus confronting the ultimate tribunal in 
the aspect of a man taken with the goods, has been put 
down as suffering from an uneasy conscience when 
what actually ailed him was simply surgical shock. 



190 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

The cosmic process is not only incurably idiotic; it 
is also indecently unjust. 

But here I become medico-legal. What I had in 
mind when I began was this: that the human tendency 
to make death dramatic and heroic has little excuse in 
the facts. No doubt you remember the scene in the 
last act of "Hedda Gabler," in which Dr. Brack comes 
in with the news of Lovborg's suicide. Hedda imme- 
diately thinks of him putting the pistol to his temple 
and dying instantly and magnificently. The picture 
fills her with romantic delight. When Brack tells 
her that the shot was actually through the breast 
she is disappointed, but soon begins to romanticise 
even that. "The breast," she says, " is also a 
good place. . . . There is somehing beautiful in 
this!" A bit later she recurs to the charming theme, 
"In the breast — ah!" Then Brack tells her the plain 
truth — in the original, thus: "iVe/, — det traf ham 
i underlivet!" . . . Edmund Gosse, in his first Eng- 
lish translation of the play, made the sentence: "No 
— it struck him in the abdomen." In the last edition 
William Archer makes it "No — in the bowels!" Ab- 
domen is nearer to underlivet than bowels, but belly 
would probably render the meaning better than either. 
What Brack wants to convey to Hedda is the news that 
Lovborg's death was not romantic in the least — that 
he went to a brothel, shot himself, not through the 
cerebrum or the heart, but through the duodenum or 



EXEUNT OMNES 191 

perhaps the jejunum, and is at the moment of report 
awaiting autopsy at the Christiania Allgemeine- 
krankenhaus. The shock floors her, but it is a shock 
that all of us must learn to bear. Men upon whom 
we lavish our veneration reduce it to an absurdity at 
the end by dying of chronic cystitis, or by choking 
upon marshmallows or dill pickles, or as the result of 
getting cut by dirty barbers. Women whom we place 
upon pedestals worthy of the holy saints come down 
at last with mastoid abscesses or die obscenely of 
hiccoughs. And we ourselves? Let us not have too 
much hope. The chances are that, if we go to war, 
eager to leap superbly at the cannon's mouth, we'll 
be finished on the way by an ingrowing toenail or by 
being run over by an army truck driven by a former 
Greek bus-boy and loaded with imitation Swiss 
cheeses made in Oneida, N. Y. And that if we die 
in our beds, it will be of measles or albuminuria. 

The aforesaid Crile, in one of his smaller books, 
"A Mechanistic View of War and Peace," has a good 
deal to say about death in war, and in particular, 
about the disparity between the glorious and inspir- 
ing passing imagined by the young soldier and the 
messy finish that is normally in store for him. He 
shows two pictures of war, the one ideal and the other 
real. The former is the familiar print, "The Spirit 
of '76," with the three patriots springing grandly to 
the attack, one of them with a neat and romantic 



192 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

bandage around his head — apparently, to judge by 
his liveliness, to cover a wound no worse than an 
average bee-sting. The latter picture is what the 
movie folks call a close-up of a French soldier who 
was struck just below the mouth by a German one- 
pounder shell — a soldier suddenly converted into the 
hideous simulacrum of a cruller. What one notices 
especially is the curious expression upon what re- 
mains of his face — an expression of the utmost sur- 
prise and indignation. No doubt he marched off to 
the front firmly convinced that, if he died at all, it 
would be at the climax of some heroic charge, up to 
his knees in blood and with his bayonet run clear 
through a Bavarian at least four feet in diameter. 
He imagined the clean bullet through the heart, the 
stately last gesture, the final words: "Therese! 
Sophie! Olympe! Marie! Suzette! Odette! 
Denise! Julie! . . . France!" Go to the book and 
see what he got. . . . Dr. Crile, whose experience of 
war has soured him against it, argues that the best 
way to abolish it would be to prohibit such romantic 
prints as "The Spirit of '76" and substitute therefor 
a series of actual photographs of dead and wounded 
men. The plan is plainly of merit. But it would 
be expensive. Imagine a war getting on its legs be- 
fore the conversion of the populace had become com- 
plete. Think of the huge herds of spy-chasers, let- 
ter-openers, pacifist-hounds, burlesons and other such 



EXEUNT OMNES 193 

operators that it would take to track down and con- 
fiscate all those pictures! . . . 

Even so, the vulgar horror of death would remain, 
for, as Ellen La Motte well says in her little book, 
"The Backwash of War," the finish of a civilian in a 
luxurious hospital, with trained nurses fluttering over 
him and his pastor whooping and heaving for him at 
the foot of his bed, is often quite as terrible as any 
form of exitus witnessed in war. It is, in fact, al- 
ways an unpleasant business. Let the poets disguise 
it all they may and the theologians obscure the issue 
with promises of post-mortem felicity, the plain truth 
remains that it gives one pause to reflect that, on some 
day not far away, one must yield supinely to acidosis, 
sink into the mental darkness of an idiot, and so suf- 
fer a withdrawal from these engaging scenes. "No. 
8," says the nurse in faded pink, tripping down the 
corridor with a hooch of rye for the diabetic in No. 2, 
"has just passed out." "Which is No. 8?" asks the 
new nurse. "The one whose wife wore that awful hat 
this afternoon?" . . . But all the authorities, it is 
pleasant to know, report that the final scene is placid 
enough. Dr. Weber quotes many of them. The dy- 
ing man doesn't struggle much and he isn't much 
afraid. As his alkalies give out he succumbs to a 
blest stupidity. His mind fogs. His will power van* 
ishes. He submits decently. He scarcely gives a 
damn. 



VII. THE ALLIED ARTS 



On Music-Lovers 

OF all forms of the uplift, perhaps the most 
futile is that which addresses itself to edu- 
cating the proletariat in music. The theory 
behind it is that a taste for music is an elevating pas- 
sion, and that if the great masses of the plain people 
could be inoculated with it they would cease to herd 
into the moving-picture theaters, or to listen to Social- 
ists, or to beat their wives and children. The defect 
in this theory lies in the fact that such a taste, granting 
it to be elevating, simply cannot be implanted. Either 
it is born in a man or it is not born in him. If it is, 
then he will get gratification for it at whatever cost — 
he will hear music if hell freezes over. But if it isn't, 
then no amount of education will ever change him — 
he will remain stone deaf until the last sad scene on 
the gallows. 

No child who has this congenital taste ever has to 
be urged or tempted or taught to love music. It takes 
to tone inevitably and irresistibly; nothing can re- 
strain it. What is more, it always tries to make 

194 



THE ALLIED ARTS 195 

music, for the delight in sounds is invariably accom- 
panied by a great desire to make them. I have never 
encountered an exception to this rule. All genuine 
music-lovers try to make music. They may do it 
badly, and even absurdly, but nevertheless they do 
it. Any man who pretends to a delight in the tone- 
art and yet has never learned the scale of C major — 
any and every such man is a fraud. The opera- 
houses of the world are crowded with such liars. 
You will even find hundreds of them in the concert- 
halls, though here the suffering they have to undergo 
to keep up their pretense is almost too much for them 
to bear. Many of them, true enough, deceive them- 
selves. They are honest in the sense that they credit 
their own buncombe. But it is buncombe none the 
less. 

Music, of course, has room for philanthropy. The 
cost of giving an orchestral concert is so great that 
ordinary music-lovers could not often pay for it. 
Here the way is open for rich backers, most of whom 
have no more ear for music than so many Chinamen. 
Nearly all the opera of the world is so supported. A 
few rich cads pay the bills, their wives posture ob- 
scenely in the boxes, and the genuine music-lovers 
upstairs and down enjoy the more or less harmonious 
flow of sound. But this business doesn't make music- 
lovers. It merely gives pleasure to music-lovers who 
already exist. In twenty-five years, I am sure, the 



196 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Metropolitan Opera Company hasn't converted a 
single music-lover. On the contrary, it has probably 
disgusted and alienated many thousands of faint- 
hearted quasi-music-lovers, i. e., persons with no more 
than the most nebulous taste for music — so nebulous 
that one or two evenings of tremendous gargling by 
fat tenors was enough to kill it altogether. 

In the United States the number of genuine music- 
lovers is probably very low. There are whole states, 
e. g., Alabama, Arkansas and Idaho, in which it 
would be difficult to muster a hundred. In New 
York, I venture, not more than one person in every 
thousand of the population deserves to be counted. 
The rest are, to all intents and purposes, tone-deaf. 
They can not only sit through the infernal din made 
by the current jazz-bands; they actually like it. This 
is precisely as if they preferred the works of The 
Duchess to those of Thomas Hardy, or the paintings 
of the men who make covers for popular novels to 
those of El Greco. Such persons inhabit the sewers 
of the bozart. No conceivable education could rid 
them of their native ignobility of soul. They are 
born unspeakable and incurable. 



THE ALLIED ARTS 197 



Opera 

Opera, to a person genuinely fond of aural beauty, 
must inevitably appear tawdry and obnoxious, if only 
because it presents aural beauty in a frame of purely 
visual gaudiness, with overtones of the grossest sexual 
provocation. The most successful opera singers of 
the female sex, at least in America, are not those 
whom the majority of auditors admire most as singers 
but those whom the majority of male spectators desire 
most as mistresses. Opera is chiefly supported in all 
countries by the same sort of wealthy sensualists who 
also support musical comedy. One finds in the direc- 
tors' room the traditional stock company of the stage- 
door alley. Such vermin, of course, pose in the news- 
papers as devout and almost fanatical partisans of art; 
they exhibit themselves at every performance; one 
hears of their grand doings, through their press agents, 
almost every day. But one has merely to observe the 
sort of opera they think is good to get the measure of 
their actual artistic discrimination. 

The genuine music-lover may accept the carnal husk 
of opera to get at the kernel of actual music within, 
but that is no sign that he approves the carnal husk 
or enjoys gnawing through it. Most musicians, 
indeed, prefer to hear operatic music outside the 



198 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

opera house; that is why one so often hears such things 
as "The Ride of the Valkyrie" in the concert hall. 
"The Ride of the Valkyrie" has a certain intrinsic 
value as pure music ; played by a competent orchestra 
it may give civilized pleasure. But as it is commonly 
performed in an opera house, with a posse of flat bel- 
dames throwing themselves about the stage, it can only 
produce the effect of a dose of ipecacuanha. The 
sort of person who actually delights in such spectacles 
is the sort of person who delights in plush furniture. 
Such half-wits are in a majority in every opera house 
west of the Rhine. They go to the opera, not to hear 
music, not even to hear bad music, but merely to see 
a more or less obscene circus. A few, perhaps, have 
a further purpose; they desire to assist in that circus, 
to show themselves in the capacity of fashionables, 
to enchant the yoke]ry with their splendor. But the 
majority must be content with the more lowly aim. 
What they get for the outrageous prices they pay for 
seats is a chance to feast their eyes upon glittering 
members of the superior demi-monde, and to abase 
their groveling souls before magnificoes on their own 
side of the footlights. They esteem a performance, 
not in proportion as true music is on tap, but in pro- 
portion as the display of notorious characters on the 
stage is copious, and the exhibition of wealth in the 
boxes is lavish. A soprano who can gargle her way 
up to G sharp in alto is more to such simple souls than 



THE ALLIED ARTS 199 

a whole drove of Johann Sebastian Bachs; her one 
real rival, in the entire domain of art, is the contralto 
who has a pension from a grand duke and is reported 
to be enceinte by several profiteers. Heaven visual- 
izes itself as an opera house with forty-eight Carusos, 
each with forty-eight press agents. ... On the Conti- 
nent, where frankness is unashamed, the opera audi- 
ence often reveals its passion for tone very naively. 
That is to say, it arises on its hind legs, turns its back 
upon the stage and gapes at the boxes in charming in- 
nocence. 

That such ignobles applaud is usually quite as 
shoddy as they are themselves. To write a successful 
opera a knowledge of harmony and counterpoint is 
not enough; one must also be a sort of Barnum. All 
the first-rate musicians who have triumphed in the 
opera house have been skillful mountebanks as well. 
I need cite only Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. 
The business, indeed, has almost nothing to do with 
music. All the actual music one finds in many a 
popular opera — for example, "Thais" — mounts up to 
less than one may find in a pair of Gung'l waltzes. 
It is not this mild flavor of tone that fetches the crowd ; 
it is the tinpot show that goes with it. An opera may 
have plenty of good music in it and fail, but if it has 
a good enough show it will succeed. 

Such a composer as Wagner, of course, could not 
write even an opera without getting some music into 



200 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

it. In nearly all of his works, even including "Parsi- 
fal," there are magnificent passages, and some of them 
are very long. Here his natural genius overcame 
him, and he forgot temporarily what he was about. 
But these magnificent passages pass unnoticed by the 
average opera audience. What it esteems in his music 
dramas is precisely what is cheapest and most mounte- 
bankish — for example, the more lascivious parts of 
"Tristan und Isolde." The sound music it dismisses 
as tedious. The Wagner it venerates is not the musi- 
cian, but the showman. That he had a king for a 
backer and was seduced by Liszt's daughter — these 
facts, and not the fact of his stupendous talent, are 
the foundation stones of his fame in the opera house. 
Greater men, lacking his touch of the quack, have 
failed where he succeeded — Beethoven, Schubert, 
Schumann, Brahms, Bach, Haydn, Haendel. Not one 
of them produced a genuinely successful opera; most 
of them didn't even try. Imagine Brahms writing 
for the diamond horseshoe! Or Bach! Or Haydn! 
Beethoven attempted it, but made a mess of it; "Fide- 
lio" survives to-day chiefly as a set of concert over- 
tures. Schubert wrote more actual music every morn- 
ing between 10 o'clock and lunch time than the aver- 
age opera composer produces in 250 years, and yet 
he always came a cropper in the opera house. 



THE ALLIED ARTS 201 



The Music of To-morrow 

Viewing the current musical scene, Carl Van 
Vechten finds it full of sadness. Even Debussy bores 
him; he heard nothing interesting from that quarter 
for a long while before the final scene. As for Ger- 
many, he finds it a desert, with Arnold Schoenberg be- 
hind the bar of its only inviting Gasthaus. Richard 
Strauss? Pooh! Strauss is an exploded torpedo, a 
Zeppelin brought to earth; "he has nothing more to 
say." (Even the opening of the Alpine symphony, it 
would appear, is more stick-candy.) England? Go 
to! Italy? Back to the barrel-organ! Where, 
then, is the tone poetry of to-morrow to come from? 
According to Van Vechten, from Russia. It is the 
steppes that will produce it — or, more specifically, 
Prof. Igor Strawinsky, author of "The Nightingale" 
and of various revolutionary ballets. In the scores 
of Strawinsky, says Van Vechten, music takes a vast 
leap forward. Here, at last, we are definitely set 
free from melody and harmony; the thing becomes 
an ineffable complex of rhythms; "all rhythms are 
beaten into the ears." 

New? Of the future? I have not heard all of the 
powerful shiverings and tremblings of M. Strawinsky, 
but I presume to doubt it none the less. "The ancient 
Greeks," says Van Vechten, "accorded rhythm a 



202 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

higher place than either melody or harmony." Well, 
what of it? So did the ancient Goths and Huns. So 
do the modern Zulus and New Yorkers. The simple 
truth is that the accentuation of mere rhythm is a 
proof, not of progress in music, but of a reversion to 
barbarism. Rhythm is the earliest, the underlying 
element. The African savage, beating his tom-tom, 
is content to go no further; the American composer of 
fox trots is with him. But music had scarcely any 
existence as an art-form until melody came to 
rhythm's aid, and its fruits were little save dullness 
until harmony began to support melody. To argue 
that mere rhythm, unsupported by anything save tone- 
color, may now take their place is to argue something 
so absurd that its mere statement is a sufficient answer 
to it. 

The rise of harmony, true enough, laid open a 
dangerous field. Its exploration attracted meticulous 
minds; it was rigidly mapped in hard, geometrical 
forms; in the end, it became almost unnavigable to 
the man of ideas. But no melodramatic rejection of 
all harmony is needed to work a reform. The busi- 
ness, indeed, is already gloriously under way. The 
dullest conservatory pupil has learned how to pull 
the noses of the old-time schoolmasters. No one cares 
a hoot any more about the ancient laws of preparation 
and resolution. (The rules grow so loose, indeed, 
that I may soon be tempted to write a tone-poem my- 



THE ALLIED ARTS 203 

self) . But out of this chaos new laws will inevitably 
arise, and though they will not be as rigid as the old 
ones, they will still be coherent and logical and intelli- 
gible. Already, in fact, gentlemen of professorial 
mind are mapping them out; one needs but a glance 
at such a book as Rene Lenormand's to see that there 
is a certain order hidden in even the wildest vagaries 
of the moment. And when the boiling in the pot dies 
down, the truly great musicians will be found to be, 
not those who have been most daring, but those who 
have been most discreet and intelligent — those who 
have most skillfully engrafted what is good in the new 
upon what was sound in the old. Such a discreet fel- 
low is Richard Strauss. His music is modern enough 
— but not too much. One is thrilled by its experi- 
ments and novelties, but at the same time one can 
enjoy the thing as music. 

Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner belonged 
to the same lodge. They were by no means the 
wildest revolutionaries of their days, but they were 
the best musicians. They didn't try to improve music 
by purging it of any of the elements that made it 
music; they tried, and with success, to give each ele- 
ment a new force and a new significance. Berlioz, I 
dare say, knew more about the orchestra than Wagner; 
he surely went further than Wagner in reaching out 
for new orchestral effects. But nothing he ever wrote 
has a fourth of the stability and value of "Die Meister- 



204 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

singer." He was so intrigued by his tone-colors that 
he forgot his music. 

4 

Tempo di Valse 

Those Puritans who snort against the current dances 
are quite right when they argue that the tango and the 
shimmie are violently aphrodisiacal, but what they 
overlook is the fact that the abolition of such provoca- 
tive wriggles would probably revive something worse, 
to wit, the Viennese waltz. The waltz never quite 
goes out of fashion; it is always just around the 
corner; every now and then it comes back with a bang. 
And to the sore harassment and corruption, I suspect, 
of chemical purity, the ideal of all right-thinkers. 
The shimmie and the tango are too gross to be very 
dangerous to civilized human beings; they suggest 
drinking beer out of buckets ; the most elemental good 
taste is proof enough against them. But the waltz! 
Ah, the waltz, indeed! It is sneaking, insidious, dis- 
arming, lovely. It does its work, not like a college- 
yell or an explosion in a munitions plant, but like the 
rustle of the trees, the murmur of the illimitable sea, 
the sweet gurgle of a pretty girl. The jazz-band 
fetches only vulgarians, barbarians, idiots, pigs. 
But there is a mystical something in "Weiner Blut" 
or "Kiinstler Leben" that fetches even philosophers. 



THE ALLIED ARTS 205 

The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper — the 
art of tone turned bawdy. I venture to say that the 
compositions of one man alone, Johann Strauss II, 
have lured more fair young creatures to lamentable 
complaisance than all the hyperdermic syringes of all 
the white slave scouts since the fall of the Western 
Empire. There is something about a waltz that is 
simply irresistible. Try it on the fattest and sedatest 
or even upon the thinnest and most acidulous of 
women, and she will be ready, in ten minutes, for a 
stealthy kiss behind the door — nay, she will forthwith 
impart the embarrassing news that her husband mis- 
understands her, and drinks too much, and cannot 
appreciate Maeterlinck, and is going to Cleveland, 0., 
on business to-morrow. . . . 

I often wonder that the Comstocks have not under- 
taken a crusade against the waltz. If they suppress 
"The 'Genius' " and "Jurgen," then why do they over- 
look "Rosen aus dem Suden"? If they are so hot 
against "Madame Bovary" and the Decameron, then 
why the immunity of "Wein, Weib und Gesang"? 
... I throw out the suggestion and pass on. Nearly 
all the great waltzes of the world, incidently, were 
written by Germans — or Austrians. A waltz-pogrom 
would thus enlist the American Legion and the 
Daughters of the Revolution. Moreover, there is the 
Public Health Service: it is already engaged upon a 
campaign to enforce virginity in both sexes by statute 



206 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

and artillery. Imagine such an enterprise with every 
band free to play "Wiener Mad'l"! 



The Puritan as Artist 

The saddest thing that I have ever heard in the con- 
cert hall is Herbert K. Hadley's overture, "In Bo- 
hemia." The title is a magnificent piece of profound, 
if unconscious irony. One looks, at least, for a leg 
flung in the air, a girl kissed, a cork popped, a flash 
of drawer-ruffles. What one encounters is a meeting 
of the Lake Mohonk Conference. Such prosy cor- 
rectness and hollowness, in music, is almost inconceiv- 
able. It is as if the most voluptuous of the arts were 
suddenly converted into an abstract and austere 
science, like comparative grammar or astro-physics. 
"Who's Who in America" says that Hadley was born 
in Somerville, Mass., and "studied violin and other 
branches in Vienna." A prodigy thus unfolds itself: 
here is a man who lived in Vienna, and yet never 
heard a Strauss waltz! This, indeed, is an even 
greater feat than being born an artist in Somerville. 

6 

The Human Face 

Probably the best portrait that I have ever seen in 
America is one of Theodore Dreiser by Bror Nord- 



THE ALLIED ARTS 207 

f eldt. Who this Bror Nordfeldt may be I haven't the 
slightest notion — a Scandinavian, perhaps. Maybe 
I have got his name wrong; I can't find any Nordfeldt 
in "Who's Who in America." But whatever his name, 
he has painted Dreiser in a capital manner. The por- 
trait not only shows the outward shell of the man; it 
also conveys something of his inner spirit — his simple- 
minded wonder at the mystery of existence, his con- 
stant effort to argue himself out of a despairing pes- 
simism, his«genuine amazement before life as a spec- 
tacle. The thing is worth a hundred Sargents, with 
their slick lying, their childish facility, their general 
hollowness and tackiness. Sargent should have been 
a designer of candy-box tops. The notion that he is 
a great artist is one of the astounding delusions of 
Anglo-Saxondom. What keeps it going is the patent 
fact that he is a very dexterous craftsman — one who 
understands thoroughly how to paint, just as a good 
plumber knows how to plumb. But of genuine aes- 
thetic feeling the man is almost as destitute as the 
plumber. His portrait of the four Johns Hopkins 
professors is probably the worst botch ever palmed 
off on a helpless committee of intellectual hay and 
feed dealers. But Nordfeldt, in his view of Dreiser, 
somehow gets the right effect. It is rough painting, 
but real painting. There is a knock-kneed vase in the 
foreground, and a bunch of flowers apparently painted 
with a shaving-brush — but Dreiser himself is genuine. 



208 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

More, he is made interesting. One sees at once that 
he is no common man. 

The artist himself seems to hold the portrait in 
low esteem. Having finished it, he reversed the can- 
vas and used the back for painting a vapid snow 
scenes — a thing almost bad enough to go into a Fifth 
Avenue show-window. Then he abandoned both 
pictures. I discovered the portrait by accidentally 
knocking the snow scene off a wall. It has never been 
framed. Drieser himself has probably forgotten it. 
. . . No, I do not predict that it will be sold to some 
Pittsburgh nail manufacturer, in 1950, for $100,000. 
If it lasts two or three more years, unframed and dis- 
esteemed, it will be running in luck. When Dreiser 
is hanged, I suppose, relic-hunters will make a search 
for it. But by that time it will have died as a door- 
mat. 

7 

The Cerebral Mime 

Of all actors, the most offensive to the higher 
cerebral centers is the one who pretends to intellectual- 
ity. His alleged intelligence, of course, is always 
purely imaginary: no man of genuinely superior intel- 
ligence has ever been an actor. Even supposing a 
young man of appreciable mental powers to be lured 
upon the stage, as philosophers are occasionally lured 
into bordellos, his mind would be inevitably and 



THE ALLIED ARTS 209 

almost immediately destroyed by the gaudy nonsense 
issuing from his mouth every night. That nonsense 
enters into the very fiber of the actor. He becomes 
a grotesque boiling down of all the preposterous char- 
acters that he has ever impersonated. Their charac- 
teristics are seen in his manner, in his reactions to 
stimuli, in his point of view. He becomes a walking 
artificiality, a strutting dummy, a thematic catalogue 
of imbecilities. 

There are, of course, plays that are not wholly 
nonsense, and now and then one encounters an actor 
who aspires to appear in them. This aspiration 
almost always overtakes the so-called actor-manager 
— that is to say, the actor who has got rich and is thus 
ambitious to appear as a gentleman. Such aspirants 
commonly tackle Shakespeare, and if not Shake- 
speare, then Shaw, or Hauptmann, or Rostand, or some 
other apparently intellectual dramatist. But this is 
seldom more than a passing madness. The actor- 
manager may do that sort of thing once in a while, 
but in the main he sticks to his garbage. Consider, 
for example, the late Henry Irving. He posed as an 
intellectual and was forever gabbling about his high 
services to the stage, and yet he appeared constantly in 
such puerile things as "The Bells," beside which the 
average newspaper editorial or college yell was liter- 
ature. So with the late Mansfield. His pretension, 
deftly circulated by press-agents, was that he was a 



210 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

man of brilliant and polished mind. Nevertheless, 
he spent two-thirds of his life in the theater playing 
such abominable drival as "A Parisian Romance" and 
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." 

It is commonly urged in defense of certain actors 
that they are forced to appear in that sort of stuff 
by the public demand for it — that appearing in it 
painfully violates their secret pruderies. This de- 
fense is unsound and dishonest. An actor never dis- 
dains anything that gets him applause and money; he 
is almost completely devoid of that aesthetic con- 
science which is the chief mark of the genuine artist. 
If there were a large public willing to pay handsomely 
to hear him recite limericks, or to blow a cornet, or 
to strip off his underwear and dance a polonaise stark 
naked, he would do it without hesitation — and then 
convince himself that such buffooning constituted a 
difficult and elevated art, fully comparable to Wag- 
ner's or Dante's. In brief, the one essential, in his 
sight, is the chance to shine, the fat part, the applause. 
Who ever heard of an actor declining a fat part on 
the ground that it invaded his intellectual integrity? 
The thing is simply unimaginable. 



VIIL THE CULT OF HOPE 

OF all the sentimental errors which reign and 
rage in this incomparable republic, the 
worst, I often suspect, is that which con- 
fuses the function of criticism, whether aesthetic, polit- 
ical or social, with the function of reform. Almost 
invariably it takes the form of a protest : "The fellow 
condems without offering anything better. Why tear 
down without building up?" So coo and snivel the 
sweet ones: so wags the national tongue. The mes- 
sianic delusion becomes a sort of universal murrain. 
It is impossible to get an audience for an idea that is 
not "constructive" — i. e., that is not glib, and uplift- 
ing, and full of hope, and hence capable of tickling 
the emotions by leaping the intermediate barrier of 
the intelligence. 

In this protest and demand, of course, there is noth- 
ing but a hollow sound of words — the empty babbling 
of men who constantly mistake their mere feelings 
for thoughts. The truth is that criticism, if it were 
thus confined to the proposing of alternative schemes, 
would quickly cease to have any force or utility at 
all, for in the overwhelming majority of instances no 
alternative scheme of any intelligibility is imaginable, 

211 



212 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

and the whole object of the critical process is to dem- 
onstrate it. The poet, if the victim is a poet, is 
simply one as bare of gifts as a herring is of fur: 
no conceivable suggestion will ever make him write 
actual poetry. The cancer cure, if one turns to 
popular swindles, is wholly and absolutely without 
merit — and the fact that medicine oifers us no better 
cure does not dilute its bogusness in the slightest. 
And the plan of reform, in politics, sociology or what 
not, is simply beyond the pale of reason; no change 
in it or improvement of it will ever make it achieve 
the downright impossible. Here, precisely, is what 
is the matter with most of the notions that go floating 
about the country, particularly in the field of govern- 
mental reform. The trouble with them is not only 
that they won't and don't work; the trouble with them, 
more importantly, is that the thing they propose to ac- 
complish is intrinsically, or at all events most prob- 
ably, beyond accomplishment. That is to say, the 
problem they are ostensibly designed to solve is a 
problem that is insoluble. To tackle them with a 
proof of that insolubility, or even with a colorable 
argument of it, is sound criticism ; to tackle them with 
another solution that is quite as bad, or even worse, 
is to pick the pocket of one knocked down by an auto- 
mobile. 

Unluckily, it is difficult for a certain type of mind 
to grasp the concept of insolubility. Thousands of 



THE CULT OF HOPE 213 

poor dolts keep on trying to square the circle; other 
thousands keep pegging away at perpetual motion. 
The number of persons so afflicted is far greater than 
the records of the Patent Office show, for beyond the 
circle of frankly insane enterprise there lie circles 
of more and more plausible enterprise, and finally 
we come to a circle which embraces the great majority 
of human beings. These are the optimists and chronic 
hopers of the world, the believers in men, ideas and 
things. These are the advocates of leagues of na- 
tions, wars to make the world safe for democracy, po- 
litical mountebanks, "clean-up" campaigns, laws, 
raids, Men and Religion Forward Movements, eugen- 
ics, sex hygiene, education, newspapers. It is the 
settled habit of such credulous folk to give ear to 
whatever is comforting; it is their settled faith that 
whatever is desirable will come to pass. A caressing 
confidence — but one, unfortunately, that is not borne 
out by human experience. The fact is that some of 
the things that men and women have desired most ar- 
dently for thousands of years are not nearer realiza- 
tion to-day than they were in the time of Rameses, and 
that there is not the slightest reason for believing that 
they will lose their coyness on any near to-morrow. 
Plans for hurrying them on have been tried since the 
beginning; plans for forcing them overnight are in 
copious and antagonistic operation to-day; and yet 
they continue to hold off and elude us, and the chances 



214 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

are that they will keep on holding off and eluding us 
until the angels get tired of the show, and the whole 
earth is set off like a gigantic bomb, or drowned, like 
a sick cat, between two buckets. 

But let us avoid the grand and chronic dreams of 
the race and get down to some of the concrete prob- 
lems of life under the Christian enlightenment. Let 
us take a look, say, at the so-called drink problem, a 
small sub-division of the larger problem of saving 
men from their inherent and incurable hoggishness. 
What is the salient feature of the discussion of the 
drink problem, as one observes it going on eternally in 
These States? The salient feature of it is that very 
few honest and intelligent men ever take a hand in the 
business — that the best men of the nation, distin- 
guished for their sound sense in other fields, seldom 
show any interest in it. On the one hand it is labored 
by a horde of obvious jackasses, each confident that 
he can dispose of it overnight. And on the other 
hand it is sophisticated and obscured by a crowd of 
oblique fellows, hired by interested parties, whose 
secret desire is that it be kept unsolved. To one side, 
the professional gladiators of Prohibition; to the other 
side, the agents of the brewers and distillers. But 
why do all neutral and clear-headed men avoid it? 
Why does one hear so little about it from those who 
have no personal stake in it, and can thus view it 
fairly and accurately? Is it because they are afraid? 



THE CULT OF HOPE 215 

Is it because they are not intrigued by it? I doubt 
that it would be just to accuse them in either way. 
The real reason why they steer clear of the gabble is 
simpler and more creditable. It is this: that none of 
them — that no genuinely thoughtful and prudent man 
— can imagine any solution which meets the tests of 
his own criticism — that no genuinely intelligent man 
believes the thing is soluble at all. 

Here, of course, I generalize a bit heavily. Honest 
and intelligent men, though surely not many of them, 
occasionally come forward with suggestions. In the 
midst of so much debate it is inevitable that even a 
man of critical mind should sometimes lean to one 
side or the other — that some salient imbecility should 
make him react toward its rough opposite. But the 
fact still remains that not a single complete and com- 
prehensive scheme has ever come from such a man, 
that no such man has ever said, in so many words, 
that he thought the problem could be solved, simply 
and effectively. All such schemes come from idiots 
or from sharpers disguised as idiots to win the public 
confidence. The whole discussion is based upon 
assumptions that even the most casual reflection must 
reject as empty balderdash. 

And as with the drink problem, so with most of the 
other great questions that harass and dismay the help- 
less human race. Turn, for example, to the sex prob- 
lem. There is no half-baked ecclesiastic, bawling in 



216 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

his galvanized-iron temple on a suburban lot, who 
doesn't know precisely how it ought to be dealt with. 
There is no fantoddish old suffragette, sworn to get 
her revenge on man, who hasn't a sovereign remedy 
for it. There is not a shyster of a district attorney, 
ambitious for higher office, who doesn't offer to dis- 
pose of it in a few weeks, given only enough help 
from the city editors. And yet, by the same token, 
there is not a man who has honestly studied it and 
pondered it, bringing sound information to the busi- 
ness, and understanding of its inner difficulties and a 
clean and analytical mind, who doesn't believe and 
hasn't stated publicly that it is intrinsically and 
eternally insoluble. I can't think of an exception, 
nor does a fresh glance through the literature suggest 
one. The latest expert to tell the disconcerting truth 
is Dr. Maurice Parmelee, the criminologist. His 
book, "Personality and Conduct," is largely devoted 
to demonstrating that the popular solutions, for all 
the support they get from vice crusaders, complaisant 
legislators and sensational newspapers, are unani- 
mously imbecile and pernicious — that their only effect 
in practice is to make what was bad a good deal worse. 
His remedy is — what? An alternative solution? 
Not at all. His remedy, in brief, is to abandon all 
attempts at a solution, to let the whole thing go, to 
cork up all the reformers and try to forget it. 

And in this proposal he merely echoes Havelock 



THE CULT OF HOPE 217 

Ellis, undoubtedly the most diligent and scientific stu- 
dent of the sex problem that the world has yet seen — 
in fact, the one man who, above all others, has made 
a decorous and intelligent examination of it possible. 
Ellis' remedy is simply a denial of all remedies. He 
admits that the disease is bad, but he shows that the 
medicine is infinitely worse, and so he proposes go- 
ing back to the plain disease, and advocates bearing it 
with philosophy, as we bear colds in the head, mar- 
riage, the noises of the city, bad cooking and the cer- 
tainty of death. Man is inherently vile — but he is 
never so vile as when he is trying to disguise and deny 
his vileness. No prostitute was ever so costly to a 
community as a prowling and obscene vice crusader, 
or as the dubious legislator or prosecuting officer who 
jumps as he pipes. 

Ellis, in all this, falls under the excommunication 
of the sentimentalists. He demolishes one scheme 
without offering an alternative scheme. He tears 
down without making any effort to build up. This 
explains, no doubt, his general unpopularity; into 
mouths agape for peruna, he projects only paralyzing 
streams of ice-water. And it explains, too, the curi- 
ous fact that his books, the most competent and il- 
luminating upon the subject that they discuss, are un- 
der the ban of the Comstocks in both England and 
America, whereas the hollow treatises of ignorant 
clerics and smutty old maids are merchanted with 



218 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

impunity, and even commended from the sacred desk. 
The trouble with Ellis is that he tells the truth, which 
is the unsaf est of all things to tell. His crime is that 
he is a man who prefers facts to illusions, and knows 
what he is talking about. Such men are never popu- 
lar. The public taste is for merchandise of a pre- 
cisely opposite character. The way to please is to 
proclaim in a confident manner, not what is true, but 
what is merely comforting. This is what is called 
building up. This is constructive criticism. 



IX. THE DRY MILLENNIUM 



The Holy Wat 

THE fact that the enforcement of Prohibition 
entails a host of oppressions and injustices 
— that it puts a premium upon the lowest sort 
of spying, affords an easy livelihood to hordes of pro- 
fessional scoundrels, subjects thousands of decent men 
to the worst sort of blackmail, violates the theoreti- 
cal sanctity of domicile, and makes for bitter and re- 
lentless enmities, — this fact is now adduced by its 
ever-hopeful foes as an argument for the abandon- 
ment of the whole disgusting crusade. By it they 
expect to convert even a large minority of the drys, 
apparently on the theory that the latter got converted 
emotionally and hastily, and that an appeal to their 
sense of justice and fair-dealing will debamboozle 
them. 

No hope could be more vain. What all the current 
optimists overlook is that the illogical and indefensi- 
ble persecutions certain to occur in increasing number 
under the Prohibition Amendment constitute the chief 
cause of its popularity among the sort of men who are 

219 



220 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

in favor of it. The typical Prohibitionist, in other 
words, is a man full of religious excitement, with the 
usual sadistic overtones. He delights in persecution 
for its own sake. He likes to see the other fellow 
jump and to hear him yell. This thirst is horribly 
visible in all the salient mad mullahs of the land — 
that is, in all the genuine leaders of American cul- 
ture. Such skillful boob-bumpers as the Rev. Dr. 
Billy Sunday know what that culture is; they know 
what the crowd wants. Thus they convert the preach- 
ing of the alleged Word of God into a rough-and- 
tumble pursuit of definite sinners — saloon-keepers, 
prostitutes, Sabbath-breakers, believers in the Dar- 
winian hypothesis, German exegetes, hand-books, 
poker-players, adulterers, cigarette-smokers, users of 
profanity. It is the chase that heats up the great 
mob of Methodists, not the Word. And the fact that 
the chase is unjust only tickles them the more, for 
to do injustice with impunity is a sign of power, and 
power is the thing that the inferior man always craves 
most violently. 

Every time the papers print another account of a 
Prohibionist agent murdering a man who resists him, 
or searching some woman's underwear, or raiding a 
Vanderbilt yacht, or blackmailing a Legislature, or 
committing some other such inordinate and anti-social 
act, they simply make a thousand more votes for 
Prohibition. It is precisely that sort of entertain- 



THE DRY MILLENNIUM 221 

ment that makes Prohibition popular with the boob- 
ery. It is precisely because it is unjust, imbecile, 
arbitrary and tyrannical that they are so hot for it. 
The incidental violation of even the inferior man's 
liberty is not sufficient to empty him of delight in the 
chase. The victims reported in the newspapers are 
commonly his superiors; he thus gets the immemorial 
democratic satisfaction out of their discomfiture. 
Besides, he has no great rage for liberty himself. He 
is always willing to surrender it at demand. The 
most popular man under a democracy is not the most 
democratic man, but the most despotic man. The 
common folk delight in the exactions of such a man. 
They like him to boss them. Their natural gait is 
the goose-step. 

It was predicted by romantics that the arrival of 
Prohibition would see the American workingman in 
revolt against its tyranny, with mills idle and indus- 
try paralyzed. Certain boozy labor leaders even 
went so far as to threaten a general strike. No such 
strike, of course, materialized. Not a single Ameri- 
can workingman uttered a sound. The only protests 
heard of came from a few barbarous foreigners, and 
these malcontents were quickly beaten into submis- 
sion by the Polizei. In a week or two all the reserve 
stocks of beer were exhausted, and every jug of au- 
thentic hard liquor was emptied. Since then, save 
for the ghastly messes that he has brewed behind 



222 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

locked doors, the American workingman has been dry. 
Worse, he has also been silent. Not a sound has 
come out of him. . . . But his liver is full of bile? 
He nourishes an intolerable grievance? He will get 
his revenge, soon or late, at the polls? All moon- 
shine! He will do nothing of the sort. He will ac- 
tually do what he always does — that is, he will make 
a virtue of his necessity, and straightway begin be- 
lieving that he likes Prohibition, that it is doing him 
a lot of good, that he wouldn't be without it if he 
could. This is the habitual process of thought of 
inferior men, at all times and everywhere. This is 
the sturdy common sense of the plain people. 



The Lure of Babylon 

One of the ultimate by-products of Prohibition and 
the allied Puritanical barbarities will probably be 
an appreciable slackening in the present movement of 
yokels toward the large cities. The thing that at- 
tracted the peasant youth to our gaudy Sodoms and 
Ninevehs, in the past, was not, as sociologists have 
always assumed, the prospect of less work and more 
money. The country boy, in point of fact — that is, 
the average country boy, the normal country boy — 
had to work quite as hard in the city as he ever worked 
in the country, and his wages were anything but 



THE DRY MILLENNIUM 223 

princely. Unequipped with a city trade, unprotected 
by a union, and so forced into competition with the 
lowest types of foreign labor, he had to be content 
with monotonous, uninspiring and badly-paid jobs. 
He did not become a stock-broker, or even a plumber; 
until the war gave him a temporary chance at its gi- 
gantic swag, he became a car conductor, a porter or 
a wagon-driver. And it took him many years to 
escape from that sordid fate, for the city boy, with 
a better education and better connections, was always 
a lap or two ahead of him. The notion that yokels 
always succeed in the cities is a great delusion. The 
overwhelming majority of our rich men are city-born 
and city -bred. And the overwhelming majority of 
our elderly motormen, forlorn corner grocerymen, 
neighborhood carpenters and other such blank car- 
tridges are country-bred. 

No, it was not money that lured the adolescent hus- 
bandman to the cities, but the gay life. What he 
dreamed of was a more spacious and stimulating ex- 
istence than the farm could offer — an existence 
crowded with intriguing and usually unlawful recrea- 
tions. A few old farmers may have come in now and 
then to buy gold bricks or to hear the current Henry 
Ward Beechers, but these oldsters were mere trip- 
pers — they never thought of settling down — the very 
notion of it would have appalled them. The actual 
settlers were all young, and what brought them on was 



224 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

less an economic impulse than an aesthetic one. They 
wanted to live magnificently, to taste the sweets that 
drummers talked of, to sample the refined divertise- 
ments described in such works as "The Confessions of 
an Actress," "Night Life in Chicago" and "What 
Every Young Husband Should Know." Specifically, 
they yearned for a semester or two in the theaters, 
the saloons and the bordellos — particularly, the sa- 
loons and bordellos. It was this gorgeous bait that 
dragged them out of their barn-yards. It was this 
bait that landed a select few in Wall street and the 
United States Senate — and millions on the front seats 
of trolley-cars, delivery-wagons and ash-carts. 

But now Puritanism eats the bait. In all our great 
cities the public stews are closed, and the lamentable 
irregularities they catered to are thrown upon an in- 
dividual initiative that is quite beyond the talents and 
enterprise of a plow-hand. Now the Saloons are 
closed too, and the blind-pigs begin to charge such 
prices that no peasant can hope to pay them. Only 
the theater remains — and already the theater loses its 
old lavish devilishness. True enough, it still deals 
in pornography, but that pornography becomes ex- 
clusive and even esoteric: a yokel could not under- 
stand the higher farce, nor could he afford to pay for 
a seat at a modern leg-show. The cheap burlesque 
house of other days is now incurably moral; I saw a 
burlesque show lately which was almost a dramatiza- 



THE DRY MILLENNIUM 225 

tion of a wall-card by Dr. Frank Crane. There re- 
mains the movie, but the peasant needn't come to the 
city to see movies — there is one in every village. 
What remains, then, of the old lure? What sane 
youth, comfortably housed on a farm, with Theda 
Bara performing at the nearest cross-roads, wheat at 
$2.25 a bushel and milkers getting $75 a month and 
board — what jejune rustic, not downright imbecile, 
itches for the city to-day? 



Cupid and Well-Water 

In the department of amour, I daresay, the first 
effect of Prohibition will be to raise up impediments 
to marriage. It was alcohol, in the past, that was the 
primary cause of perhaps a majority of alliances 
among civilized folk. The man, priming himself 
with cocktails to achieve boldness, found himself sud- 
denly bogged in sentimentality, and so yielded to the 
ancient tricks of the lady. Absolutely sober men will 
be harder to snare. Coffee will never mellow them 
sufficiently. Thus I look for a fall in the marriage 
rate. 

But only temporarily. In the long run, Prohibi- 
tion will make marriage more popular, at least among 
the upper classes, than it has ever been in the past, 
and for the plain reason that, once it is in full effect, 



226 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

the life of a civilized bachelor will become intoler- 
able. In the past he went to his club. But a club 
without a (bar is as hideously unattractive as a beau- 
tiful girl without hair or teeth. No sane man will 
go into it. In two years, in fact, nine out of ten clubs 
will be closed. The only survivors will be a few 
bleak rookeries for senile widowers. The bachelor 
of less years, unable to put up with the society of such 
infernos, will inevitably decide that if he must keep 
sober he might just as well have a charming girl to 
ease his agonies, and so he will expose himself in 
society, and some fair one or other will nab him. 

At the moment, observing only the first effect of 
Prohibition, the great majority of intelligent women 
are opposed to it. But when the secondary effect be- 
gins to appear they will become in favor of it. They 
now have the vote. I see no hope. 

4 

The Triumph of Idealism 

Another effect of Prohibition will be that it will 
gradually empty the United States of its present small 
minority of civilized men. Almost every man that 
one respects is now casting longing eyes across the 
ocean. Some of them talk frankly of emigrating, 
once Europe pulls itself together. Others merely 
propose to go abroad every year and to stay there as 



THE DRY MILLENNIUM 227 

long as possible, visiting the United States only at 
intervals, as a Russian nobleman, say, used to visit his 
estates in the Ukraine. Worse, Prohibition will scare 
off all the better sort of immigrants from the other 
side. The lower order of laborers may continue to 
come in small numbers — each planning to get all the 
money he can and then escape,, as the Italians are 
even now escaping. But no first-rate man will ever 
come — no Stephen Girard, or William Osier, or Carl 
Schurz, or Theodore Thomas, or Louis Agassiz, or 
Edwin Klebs, or Albert Gallatin, or Alexander Ham- 
ilton. It is not Prohibition per se that will keep them 
away; it is the whole complex of social and political 
attitudes underlying Prohibition — the whole clinical 
picture of Puritanism rampant. The United States 
will become a sort of huge Holland — fat and con- 
tented, but essentially undistinguished. Its superior 
men will leave it automatically, as nine-tenths of all 
superior Hollanders leave Holland. 

But all this, from the standpoint of Prohibitionists, 
is no argument against Prohibition. On the contrary, 
it is an argument in favor of Prohibition. For the 
men the Prohibitionist — i. e., the inferior sort of Puri- 
tan — distrusts and dislikes most intensely is pre- 
cisely what the rest of humanity regards as the su- 
perior man. You will go wrong if you imagine that 
the honest yeomen of, say, Mississippi deplore the 
fact that in the whole state there is not a single dis- 



228 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

tinguished man. They actually delight in it. It is a 
source of genuine pride to them that no such irre- 
ligious scoundrel as Balzac lives there, and no such 
scandalous adulterer as Wagner, and no scoundrelly 
atheist as Huxley, and no such rambunctious piano- 
thumper as Beethoven, and no such German spy as 
Nietzsche. Such men, settling there, would be visited 
by a Vigilance Committee and sharply questioned. 
The Puritan Commonwealth, now as always, has no 
traffic with heretics. 



X. APPENDIX ON A TENDER 
THEME 



The Nature of Love 

WHATEVER the origin (in the soul, the 
ductless glands or the convolutions of the 
cerebrum) of the thing called romantic 
love, its mere phenomenal nature may be very simply 
described. It is, in brief, a wholesale diminishing 
of disgusts, primarily based on observation, but often, 
in its later stages, taking on an hallucinatory and 
pathological character. Friendship has precisely the 
same constitution, but the pathological factor is usu- 
ally absent. When we are attracted to a person and 
find his or her proximity agreeable, it means that he 
or she disgusts us less than the average human being 
disgusts us — which, if we have delicate sensibilities, 
is a good deal more than is comfortable. The ele- 
mental man is not much oppressed by this capacity for 
disgust; in consequence, he is capable of falling in 
love with almost any woman who seems sexually nor- 
mal. But the man of a higher type is vastly more 
sniffish, and so the majority of women whom he meets 

229 



230 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

are quite unable to interest him, and when he suc- 
cumbs at last it is always to a woman of special char- 
acter, and often she is also one of uncommon shrewd- 
ness and enterprise. 

Because human contacts are chiefly superficial, 
most of the disgusts that we are conscious of are physi- 
cal. We are never honestly friendly with a man 
who is dirtier than we are ourselves, or who has table 
manners that are cruder than our own (or merely 
noticeably different), or who laughs in a way that 
strikes us as gross, or who radiates some odor that 
we do not like. We never conceive a romantic pas- 
sion for a woman who employs a toothpick in public, 
or who suffers from acne, or who offers the subtle 
but often quite unescapable suggestion that she has on 
soiled underwear. But there are also psychical dis- 
gusts. Our friends, in the main, must be persons 
who think substantially as we do, at least about all 
things that actively concern us, and who have the 
same general tastes. It is impossible to imagine a 
Brahmsianer being honestly fond of a man who en- 
joys jazz, or a man who admires Joseph Conrad fall- 
ing in love with a woman who reads Rex Beach. By 
the same token, it is impossible to imagine a woman 
of genuine refinement falling in love with a Knight 
of Pythias, a Methodist or even a chauffeur; either 
the chauffeur is a Harvard aviator in disguise or the 
lady herself is a charwoman in disguise. Here, how- 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 231 

ever, the force of aversion may be greatly diminished 
by contrary physical attractions; the body, as usual, 
is enormously more potent than the so-called mind. 
In the midst of the bitterest wars, with every man of 
the enemy held to be a fiend in human form, women 
constantly fall in love with enemy soldiers who are 
of pleasant person and wear attractive uniforms. 
And many a fair agnostic, as every one knows, is on 
good terms with a handsome priest. . . . 

Imagine a young man in good health and easy cir- 
cumstances, entirely ripe for love. The prompting 
to mate and beget arises within his interstitial depths, 
traverses his lymphatic system, lifts his blood pres 
sure, and goes whooping through his meatus audi 
torium externus like a fanfare of slide trombones 
The impulse is very powerful. It staggers and dis 
mays him. He trembles like a stag at bay. Why 
then, doesn't he fall head over heels in love with the 
first eligible woman that he meets? For the plain 
reason that the majority of women that he meets of- 
fend him, repel him, disgust him. Often it is in some 
small, inconspicuous and, at first glance, unanalyz- 
able way. She is, in general, a very pretty girl — 
but her ears stand out too much. Or her hair re- 
minds him of oakum. Or her mouth looks like his 
aunt's. Or she has beer-keg ankles. Here very im- 
palpable things, such as bodily odors, play a capital 
part; their importance is always much underestimated. 



232 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

Many a girl has lost a husband by using the wrong 
perfume, or by neglecting to have her hair washed. 
Many another has come to grief by powdering her 
nose too much or too little, or by shrinking from the 
paltry pain of having some of her eyebrows pulled, 
or by employing a lip-salve with too much purple in 
it, or by patronizing a bad dentist, or by speaking in- 
cautiously of chilblains. . . . 

But eventually the youth finds his love — soon or 
late the angel foreordained comes along. Who is 
this prodigy? Simply the first girl to sneak over 
what may be called the threshold of his disgusts — 
simply the first to disgust him so little, at first glance, 
that the loud, insistent promptings of the Divine 
Schadchen have a chance to be heard. If he muffs 
this first, another will come along, maybe soon, maybe 
late. For every normal man there are hundreds of 
thousands in Christendom, thousands in his own town, 
scores within his own circle of acquaintance. This 
normal man is not too delicate. His fixed foci of 
disgust are neither very numerous nor very sensitive. 
For the rest, he is swayed by fashion, by suggestion, 
by transient moods. Anon a mood of cynicism is 
upon him and he is hard to please, but anon he suc- 
cumbs to sentimentality and is blind to everything 
save the grossest offendings. It is only the man of 
extraordinary sensitiveness, the man of hypertrophied 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 233 

delicacy, who must search the world for his elective 
affinity. 

Once the threshold is crossed emotion comes to the 
aid of perception. That is to say, the blind, almost 
irresistible mating impulse, now fortuitously relieved 
from the contrary pressure of active disgusts, fortifies 
itself by manufacturing illusions. The lover sees 
with an eye that is both opaque and out of focus. 
Thus he begins the familiar process of editing and 
improving his girl. Features and characteristics that, 
observed in cold blood, might have quickly aroused 
his most active disgust are now seen through a rose- 
tinted fog, like drabs in a musical comedy. The 
lover ends by being almost anaesthetic to disgust. 
While the spell lasts his lady could shave her head or 
take to rubbing snuff, or scratch her leg at a com- 
munion service, or smear her hair with bear's grease, 
and yet not disgust him. Here the paralysis of the 
faculties is again chiefly physical — a matter of ob- 
scure secretions, of shifting pressure, of metabolism. 
Nature is at her tricks. The fever of love is upon its 
victim. His guard down, he is little more than a 
pathetic automaton. The shrewd observer of gauch- 
eries, the sensitive sniffer, the erstwhile cynic, has be- 
come a mere potential papa. 

This spell, of course, doesn't last forever. Mar- 
riage cools the fever and lowers the threshold of dis- 



234 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

gust. The husband begins to observe what the lover 
was blind to, and often his discoveries affect him as 
unpleasantly as the treason of a trusted friend. And 
not only is the fever cooled: the opportunities for 
exact observation are enormously increased. It is 
a commonplace of juridical science that the great 
majority of divorces have their origin in the connubial 
chamber. Here intimacy is so extreme that it is 
fatal to illusion. Both parties, thrown into the 
closest human contact that either has suffered since 
their unconscious days in utero, find their old capacity 
for disgust reviving, and then suddenly flaming. The 
girl who was perfect in her wedding gown becomes a 
ghastly caricature in her robe de nuit; the man who 
was a Chevalier Bayard as a wooer becomes a snuf- 
fling, shambling, driveling nuisance as a husband — 
a fellow offensive to eyes, ears, nose, touch and im- 
mortal soul. A learned judge of my acquaintance, 
constantly hearing divorce actions and as constantly 
striving to reconcile the parties, always tries to induce 
plaintiff and defendant to live apart for a while, or, 
failing that, to occupy separate rooms, or, failing that, 
to at least dress in separate rooms. According to this 
jurist, a husband who shaves in his wife's presence 
is either an idiot or a scoundrel. The spectacle, he 
argues, is intrinsically disgusting, and to force it upon 
a refined woman is either to subject her to the most 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 235 

exquisite torture or to degrade her gradually to the 
insensate level of an Abort frau. 

The day is saved, as every one knows, by the power- 
ful effects of habit. The acquisition of habit is the 
process whereby disgust is overcome in daily life — 
the process whereby one may cease to be disgusted 
by a persistent noise or odor. One suffers horribly 
at first, but after a bit one suffers less, and in the 
course of time one scarcely suffers at all. Thus a 
man, when his marriage enters upon the stage of regu- 
larity and safety, gets used to his wife as he might 
get used to a tannery next door, and vice versa. I 
think that women, in this direction, have the harder 
row to hoe, for they are more observant than men, 
and vastly more sensitive in small ways. But even 
women succumb to habit with humane rapidity, else 
every marriage would end in divorce. Disgusts pale 
into mere dislikes, disrelishes, distastes. They cease 
to gag and torture. But though they thus shrink into 
the shadow, they are by no means disposed of. Deep 
down in the subconscious they continue to lurk, and 
some accident may cause them to flare up at any time, 
and so work havoc. This flaring up accounts for a 
familiar and yet usually very mystifying phenomenon 
— the sudden collapse of a marriage, a friendship or 
a business association after years of apparent pros- 
perity. 



236 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

2 

The Incomparable Buzzsaw 

The chief (and perhaps the only genuine) charm 
of women is seldom mentioned by the orthodox pro- 
fessors of the sex. I refer to the charm that lies in 
the dangers they present. The allurement that they 
hold out to men is precisely the allurement that Cape 
Hatteras holds out to sailors: they are enormously 
dangerous and hence enormously fascinating. To the 
average man, doomed to some banal and sordid 
drudgery all his life long, they offer the only grand 
hazard that he ever encounters. Take them away 
and his existence would be as flat and secure as that 
of a milch-cow. Even to the unusual man, the adven- 
turous man, the imaginative and romantic man, they 
offer the adventure of adventures. Civilization tends 
to dilute and cheapen all other hazards. War itself, 
once an enterprise stupendously thrilling, has been re- 
duced to mere caution and calculation; already, in- 
deed, it employs as many press-agents, letter-openers, 
and chautauqua orators as soldiers. On some not dis- 
tant to-morrow its salient personality may be Potash, 
and if not Potash, then Perlmutter. But the duel of 
sex continues to be fought in the Berserker manner. 
Whoso approaches women still faces the immemorial 
dangers. Civilization has not made them a bit more 
safe than they were in Solomon's time; they are still 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 237 

inordinately barbarous and menacing, and hence in- 
ordinately provocative, and hence inordinately charm- 
ing and romantic. . . . 

The most disgusting cad in the world is the man 
who, on grounds of decorum and morality, avoids 
the game of love. He is one who puts his own ease 
and security above the most laudable of philanthro- 
pies. Women have a hard time of it in this world. 
They are oppressed by man-made laws, man-made 
social customs, masculine egoism, the delusion of 
masculine superiority. Their one comfort is the as- 
surance that, even though it may be impossible to 
prevail against man, it is always possible to enslave 
and torture a man. This feeling is fostered when one 
makes love to them. One need not be a great beau, 
a seductive catch, to do it effectively. Any man is 
better than none. No woman is ever offended by 
admiration. The wife of a millionaire notes the rev- 
erent glance of a head-waiter. To withhold that 
devotion, to shrink poltroonishly from giving so much 
happiness at such small expense, to evade the business 
on the ground that it has hazards — this is the act of a 
puling and tacky fellow. 



238 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

3 

Women as Spectacles 

Women, when it comes to snaring men, through 
the eye, bait a great many hooks that fail to fluster 
the fish. Nine-tenths of their primping and decorat- 
ing of their persons not only doesn't please men; it 
actually repels men. I often pass two days running 
without encountering a single woman who is charm- 
ingly dressed. Nearly all of them run to painful 
color schemes, absurd designs and excessive over- 
ornamentation. One seldom observes a man who 
looks an absolute guy, whereas such women are very 
numerous; in the average theater audience they consti- 
tute a majority of at least nine-tenths. The reason is 
not far to seek. The clothes of men are plain in 
design and neutral in hue. The only touch of genuine 
color is in the florid blob of the face, the center of 
interest — exactly where it ought to be. If there i§ 
any other color at all, it is a faint suggestion in the 
cravat — adjacent to the face, and so leading the eye 
toward it. It is color that kills the clothes of the 
average woman. She runs to bright spots that take 
the eye away from her face and hair. She ceases 
to be woman clothed and becomes a mere piece of 
clothing womaned. 

Even at the basic feminine art of pigmenting their 
faces very few women excel. The average woman 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 239 

seems to think that she is most lovely when her sophis- 
tication of her complexion is most adroitly concealed 
— when the poudre de riz is rubbed in so hard that it 
is almost invisible, and the penciling of eyes and lips 
is perfectly realistic. This is a false notion. Most 
men of appreciative eye have no objection to artifi- 
ciality per se, so long as it is intrinsically sightly. 
The marks made by a lip-stick may be very beautiful; 
there are many lovely shades of scarlet, crimson and 
vermilion. A man with eyes in his head admires 
them for themselves; he doesn't have to be first con- 
vinced that they are non-existent, that what he sees is 
not the mark of a lip-stick at all, but an authentic lip. 
So with the eyes. Nothing could be more charming 
than an eye properly reenforeed; the naked organ is 
not to be compared to it; nature is an idiot when it 
comes to shadows. But it must be admired as a 
work of art, not as a miraculous and incredible eye. 
. . . Women, in this important and venerable art, 
stick too closely to crude representation. They forget 
that men do not admire the technique, but the result. 
What they should do is to forget realism for a while, 
and concentrate their attention upon composition, 
chiaroscuro and color. 



240 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

4 

Woman and the Artist 

Much gabble is to be found in the literature of the 
world upon the function of woman as inspiration, 
stimulant and agente provocateuse to the creative 
artist. The subject is a favorite one with sentimen- 
talists, most of whom are quite beyond anything prop- 
erly describable as inspiration, either with or without 
feminine aid. I incline to think, as I hint, that there 
is little if any basis of fact beneath the theory. 
Women not only do not inspire creative artists to high 
endeavor; they actually stand firmly against every 
high endeavor that a creative artist initiates spon- 
taneously. What a man's women folks almost invari- 
able ask of him is that he be respectable — that ha do 
something generally approved — that he avoid yield- 
ing to his aberrant fancies — in brief, that he sedu- 
lously eschew showing any sign of genuine genius. 
Their interest is not primarily in the self-expression 
of the individual, but in the well-being of the family 
organization, which means the safety of themselves. 
No sane woman would want to be the wife of such a 
man, say, as Nietzsche or Chopin. His mistress 
perhaps, yes — for a mistress can always move on 
when the weather gets too warm. But not a wife. 
I here speak by the book. Both Nietzsche and Chopin 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 241 

had plenty of mistresses, but neither was ever able to 
get a wife. 

Shakespeare and Ann Hathaway, Wagner and 
Minna Planer, Moliere and Armande Bejart — one 
might multiply instances almost endlessly. Minna, 
at least in theory, knew something of music; she was 
thus what romance regards as an ideal wife for 
Wagner. But instead of helping him to manufac- 
ture his incomparable masterpieces, she was for 
twenty-five years the chief impediment to their manu- 
facture. "Lohengrin" gave her the horrors; she 
begged Richard to give up his lunacies and return to 
the composition of respectable cornet music. In the 
end he had to get rid of her in sheer self-defense. 
Once free, with nothing worse on his hands than the 
illicit affection of Gosima Liszt von Bulow, he pro- 
duced music drama after music drama in rapid suc- 
cession. Then, married to Cosima, he descended to 
the anticlimax of "Parsifal," a truly tragic mixture 
of the stupendous and the banal, of work of genius 
and sinfonia domestica — a great man dying by inches, 
smothered by the smoke of French fried potatoes, 
deafened by the wailing of children, murdered in his 
own house by the holiest of passions. 

Sentimentalists always bring up the case of Schu- 
mann and his Clara in rebuttal. But does it actually 
rebut? I doubt it. Clara, too, perpetrated her 
attentat against art. Her fair white arms, lifting 



242 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

from the keyboard to encircle Robert's neck, squeezed 
more out of him than mere fatuous smirks. He had 
the best head on him that music had seen since Beetho- 
ven's day; he was, on the cerebral side, a colossus; 
he might have written music of the very first order. 
Well, what he did write was piano music — some of it 
imperfectly arranged for orchestra. The sad eyes of 
Clara were always upon him. He kept within the 
limits of her intelligence, her prejudices, her wifely 
love. No grand experiments with the orchestra. No 
superb leapings and cavortings. No rubbing of sand- 
paper over critical ears. Robert lived and died a 
respectable musical Hausvater. He was a man of 
genuine genius — but he didn't leave ten lines that 
might not have been passed by old Prof. Jadassohn. 

The truth is that, no matter how great the domestic 
concord and how lavish the sacrifices a man makes for 
his women-folk, they almost always regard him se- 
cretly as a silly and selfish fellow, and cherish the 
theory that it would be easily possible to improve 
him. This is because the essential interests of men 
and women are eternally antithetical. A man may 
yield over and over again, but in the long run he must 
occasionally look out for himself — and it is these 
occasions that his women-folk remember. The typi- 
cal domestic situation shows a woman trying to in- 
duce a man to do something that he doesn't want to 
do, or to refrain from something that he does want 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 243 

to do. This is true in his bachelor days, when his 
mother or his sister is his* antagonist. It is pre- 
eminently true just before his marriage, when the girl 
who has marked him down is hard at the colossal job 
of overcoming his reluctance. And after marriage it 
is so true that there is hardly need to state it. One 
of the things every man discovers to his disquiet is 
that his wife, after the first play-acting is over, regards 
him essentially as his mother used to regard him — that 
is, as a self -worshiper who needs to be policed and 
an idiot who needs to be protected. The notion that 
women admire their men-folks is pure moonshine. 
The most they ever achieve in that direction is to pity 
them. When a woman genuinely loves a man it is a 
sign that she regards him much as a healthy man re- 
gards a one-armed and epileptic soldier. 



Martyrs 

Nearly the whole case of the birth-controllers who 
now roar in Christendom is grounded upon the doc- 
trine that it is an intolerable outrage for a woman 
to have to submit to motherhood when her private 
fancies may rather incline to automobiling, shopping 
or going to the movies. For this curse the husband is 
blamed; the whole crime is laid to his swinish lascivi- 
ousness. With the highest respect, nonsense! My 



244 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

private suspicion, supported by long observation, copi- 
ous prayer and the most laborious cogitation, is that no 
woman delights in motherhood so vastly as this woman 
who theoretically abhors it. She experiences, in fact, 
a double delight. On the one hand, there is the caress- 
ing of her vanity — a thing enjoyed by every woman 
when she achieves the banality of viable offspring. 
And on the other hand, there is the fine chance it gives 
her to play the martyr — a chance that every woman 
seeks as diligently as a man seeks ease. All these so- 
called unwilling mothers wallow in their martyrdom. 
They revel in the opportunity to be pitied, made 
much over and envied by other women. 

6 

The Burnt Child 

The fundamental trouble with marriage is that it 
shakes a man's confidence in himself, and so greatly 
diminishes his general competence and effectiveness. 
His habit of mind becomes that of a commander who 
has lost a decisive and calamitous battle. He never 
quite trusts himself thereafter. 

7 
The Supreme Comedy 
Marriage, at Best, is full of a sour and inescapable 
comedy, but it never reaches the highest peaks of 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 245 

the ludicrous save when efforts are made to escape 
its terms — that is, when efforts are made to loosen its 
bonds, and so ameliorate and denaturize it. All 
projects to reform it by converting it into a free union 
of free individuals are inherently absurd. The thing 
is, at bottom, the most rigid of existing conventionali- 
ties, and the only way to conceal the fact and so make 
it bearable is to submit to it docilely. The effect of 
every revolt is merely to make the bonds galling, 
and, what is worse, poignantly obvious. Who are 
happy in marriage? Those with so little imagination 
that they cannot picture a better state, and those so 
shrewd that they prefer quiet slavery to hopeless re- 
bellion. 

8 

A Hidden Cause 

Many a woman, in order to bring the man of her 
choice to the altar of God, has to fight him with such 
relentless vigilance and ferocity that she comes to hate 
him. This, perhaps, explains the unhappiness of 
many marriages. In particular, it explains the un- 
happiness of many marriages based upon what is 
called "love." 

9 

Bad Workmanship 

The essential slackness and incompetence of women, 
their congenital incapacity for small expertness, 



246 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

already descanted upon at length in my psychological 
work, "In Defense of Women," is never more plainly 
revealed than in their manhandling of the primary 
business of their sex. If the average woman were as 
competent at her trade of getting a husband as the 
average car conductor is at his trade of robbing the 
fare-box, then a bachelor beyond the age of twenty- 
five would be so rare in the world that yokels would 
pay ten cents to gape at him. But women, in this 
fundamental industry, pursue a faulty technique and 
permit themselves to be led astray by unsound prin- 
ciples. The axioms into which they have precipitated 
their wisdom are nearly all untrue. For example, 
the axiom that the way to capture a man is through his 
stomach — which is to say, by feeding him lavishly. 
Nothing could be more absurd. The average man, 
at least in England and America, has such rudimen- 
tary tastes in victualry that he doesn't know good food 
from bad. He will eat anything set before him by a 
cook that he likes. The true way to fetch him is with 
drinks. A single bottle of drinkable wine will fill 
more men with the passion of love than ten sides of 
beef or a ton of potatoes. Even a Seidel of beer, 
deftly applied, is enough to mellow the hardest bache- 
lor. If women really knew their business, they would 
have abandoned cooking centuries ago, and devoted 
themselves to brewing, distilling and bartending. It 
is a rare man who will walk five blocks for a first- 



/ 



APPENDIX ON A TENDER THEME 247 

rate meal. But it is equally a rare man who, even in 
the old days of freedom, would not walk five blocks 
for a first-rate cocktail. To-day he would walk five 
miles. 

Another unsound feminine axiom is the one to the 
effect that the way to capture a man is to be distant 
— to throw all the burden of the courtship upon him. 
This is precisely the way to lose him. A man face to 
face with a girl who seems reserved and unapproach- 
able is not inspired thereby to drag her off in the 
manner of a caveman ; on the contrary, he is inspired 
to thank God that here, at last, is a girl with whom 
it is possible to have friendly doings without getting 
into trouble — that here is one not likely to grow mushy 
and make a mess. The average man does not marry 
because some marble fair one challenges his enter- 
prise. He marries because chance throws into his 
way a fair one who repels him less actively than 
most, and because his delight in what he thus calls her 
charm is reenforced by a growing suspicion that she 
has fallen in love with him. In brief, it is chivalry 
that undoes him. The girl who infallibly gets a hus- 
band—in fact, any husband that she wants — is the 
one who tracks him boldly, fastens him with sad eyes, 
and then, when his conscience has begun to torture 
him, throws her arms around his neck, bursts into 
maidenly tears on his shoulder, and tells him that 
she fears her forwardness will destroy his respect for 



248 PREJUDICES: SECOND SERIES 

her. It is only a colossus who can resist such 
strategy. But it takes only a man of the intellectual 
grade of a Y. M. C. A. secretary to elude the girl who 
is afraid to take the offensive. 

A third bogus axiom I have already discussed, to 
wit, the axiom that a man is repelled by palpable 
cosmetics — that the wise girl is the one who effectively 
conceals her sophistication of her complexion. What 
could be more untrue? The fact is that very few 
men are competent to distinguish between a layer of 
talc and the authentic epidermis, and that the few 
who have the gift are quite free from any notion that 
the latter is superior to the former. What a man 
seeks when he enters the society of women is some- 
thing pleasing to the eye. That is all he asks. He 
does not waste any time upon a chemical or spectro- 
scopic examination of the object observed; he simply 
determines whether it is beautiful or not beautiful. 
Has it so long escaped women that their husbands, 
when led astray, are usually led astray by women so 
vastly besmeared with cosmetics that they resemble 
barber-poles more than human beings? Are they 
yet blind to the superior pull of a French maid, a 
chorus girl, a stenographer begauded like a painter's 
palette? . . . And still they go on rubbing off their 
varnish, brushing the lampblack from their eyelashes, 
seeking eternally the lip-stick that is so depressingly 
purple that it will deceive! Alas, what folly! 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Abbott, Lawrence, 106 et seq. 

Abbott, Lyman, 58 

Akins, Zoe, 26, 30 

Alcott, A. B., 63 

Allen, James Lane, 27 

Also sprach Zarathustra, 111 

American Painting and Its Tradi- 
tion, 45 

American Scholar, The, 9, 12 

Amherst College, 48 

Anderson, Sherwood, 27, 55, 100 

Archer, William, 190 

Aspects of Death and Correlated 
Aspects of Life, 185 et seq. 

Atlantic Monthly, 25, 27 

Authors' League Bulletin, 36 

Babbitt, Irving, 19, 21, 22, 26 
Backward Glance Along My Own 

Road, A, 64 
Backwash of War, The, 193 
Baker, George P., 30 
Bancroft, George, 44 
Barton, Wm. E., 104 
Baudelaire, Charles, 61 
Beach, Rex, 32, 37, 40, 50, 230 
Beethoven, Ludwig, 200, 203 
Bennett, Arnold, 56 
Benson, E. F., 38 
Bierce, Ambrose, 45, 60, 62 
Billroth, Theodor, 89 
Blasco, Ibanez, V., 52 
Blue Hotel, The, 42 
Bohme, Jakob, 71 
Bonaparte, Charles J., 126 
Bookman, 27 
Boynton, P. H., 21, 24 
Brady, Cyrus Townsend, 32 
Brahms, Johannes, 89, 162, 200 
Brainard, J. G. C, 14 



251 



Bright, John, 75 
Bronson-Howard, George, 34 
Brooks, Van Wyck, 12, 17, 23 
Brown, ^lice, 19 
Browne, Porter Emerson, 32 
Brownell, W. C, 11, 19, 21, 90 
Bruce, Philip Alexander, 147 
Bryant, Wm. Cullen, 44, 63 
Burroughs, John, 64 
Burton, Richard, 21 
Butler, Fanny Kemble, 147 
Bynner, Witter, 30 

Cabell, James Branch, 27, 47, 52, 

56, 57, 89, 100, 138, 139 
Cahan, Abraham, 56 
Caine, Hall, 35, 36 
Candler, Asa G., 152 
Carlyle, Thomas, 58 
Carnegie, Andrew, 74 
Carrel, Alexis, 48, 189 
Cather, Willa Sibert, 42, 56 
Chambers, Robert W., 32, 52 
Channing, Wm. Ellery, 11 
Chesterton, G. K., 93, 155 
Churchill, Winston, 22, 23 
Clemens, S. L., 33, 45, 52, 54, 63, 

89, 98 
Cobb, Irvin, 32 
Cobden, Richard, 75 
Comfort, Will Levington, 33 
Comstockery, 55, 90 
Confessions of an Actress, The, 

224 
Conrad, Joseph, 13, 41, 43, 53, 93, 

230 
Coogler, J. Gordon, 136 
Cooper, J. Fenimore, 44, 58, 60, 

97 
Corelli, Marie, 35 



252 



INDEX 



Cosmopolitan, 34 

Crane, Frank, 32, 35, 225 

Crane, Stephen, 42 

Crile, George W., 162, 183, 191 

Crothers, Samuel McC, 19, 22 

D'Anriunzio, Gabriel, 35 

Dawson, Coningsby, 93 

Davis, Richard Harding, 18, 32, 
43 

Debussy, Claude, 201 

Deland, Margaret, 27 

Democratic Vistas, 10 

Dickens, Charles, 59 

Die Meister singer, 164, 203 

Dissertations on the English Lan- 
guage, 12 

Doyle, A. Conan, 93 

Dreiser Protest, 54 

Dreiser, Theodore, 23, 27, 35, 41, 
45, 50, 51, 52, 55, 56, 57, 89, 90, 
100, 206 et seq. 

Eliot, T. S., 45 

Ellis, Havelock, 216 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 9 et seq., 

17, 44, 57, 59, 63 
Ethan Frome, 42 
Evans, Caradoc, 146 

Fernald, Chester Bailey, 33 
Flexner, Simon, 48 
Frank, Waldo, 100 
Freneau, Philip, 44 
Freytag-Loringhoven, El»a von, 

46 
Fuller, Henry B., 45, 55 

Gale, Zona, 33 

Garland, Hamlin, 27, 33 

Geddes, Auckland, 93 

" Genius" The, 50, 90 

Georgia, 141 et seq. 

Gilman, Daniel Coit, 49, 103 

Glasgow, Ellen, 27 

Glass, Montague, 33, 35 

Glyn, Elinor, 35 

Good GirL A., 56 



Gorky, Maxim, 54 
Gosse, Edmund, 190 
Grant, Robert, 19 
Graves, John Temple, 145 
Greenwich Village, 25 et seq. 
Griswold, Rufus W., 57 
Grote, George, 75 

Hadley, Herbert K., 206 
Hamilton, Clayton, 24 
Harris, Corra, 33 
Harris, Frank, 45, 51, 54, 56 
Harrison, Henry Sydnor, 27, 32 
Harte, Bret, 34, 42, 45, 59 
Haweis, H. R., 44 
Hawthorne, Hildegarde, 58 
Hawthorne, Julian, 58 
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 44, 54, 57, 

58, 59 
Hay, Ian, 93 
Haydn, Josef, 187, 200 
Heart of Darkness, 43 
Hearst's, 34 
Hecht, Ben, 46 
Hedda Gabler, 190 
Henry, O., 18, 32, 33, 43 
Hergesheimer, Joseph, 35, 42, 45 
Hillis, Newell Dwight, 32, 35 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 9, 63 
Hooker, Brian, 27 
Hopper, James, 34 
Hough, Emerson, 32 
Howe, E. W., 35 
Howells, Win. Dean, 15, 19, 23, 

27, 45, 53, 54, 63 
Hubbard, Elbert, 34 
Huneker, James, 64 

Impressions of Theodore Roose- 
velt, 106 

In Defense of Women, 246 

Industrial History of Virginia in 
the Seventeenth Century, 147 

Irving, Henry, 209 

Irving, Washington, 15, 44, 51, 60 

Iveagh, Lord, 66 

James, Henry, 45, 51, 54, 97 



INDEX 



253 



Jenseits von Gut und Bose, 111 
Johns Hopkins University, 48, 49 
Johnson, Owen, 32, 33 
Johnson, Robert U., 19, 27 
Johnston, Mary, 27 

Kellner, Leon, 53 
Kilmer, Joyce, 52 
Kipling, Rudyard, 93 
Knapp, Samuel Lorenzo, 11 

La Motte, Ellen, 193 

Lardner, Ring W., 33, 35 

Last of the Mohicans, The, 44 

Lay Anthony, The, 42 

Leaves of Grass, 65 

Lectures on American Literature, 

11 
Lee, Gerald Stanley, 32 
Le Quex, William, 35 
Letters and Leadership, 12 
Lincoln, Abraham, 103 et seq. 
Lindsay, Vachel, 26, 57 
Little Review, 46 
Loeb, Jacques, 48, 171 
London, Jack, 33 
Longfellow, H. W., 23, 26, 44, 60, 

63 
Lowell, Amy, 26, 30, 45, 52, 57 
Lowell, James Russell, 15, 44, 60, 

63 
Loveman, Robert, 30, 138 



Mabie, Hamilton Wright, 11, 18 

McClure, John, 30, 138 

McClure's, 34 

MacGrath, Harold, 33 

Maeterlinck, Maurice, 35 

Mallarme, Stephen, 61 

Man: An Adaptive Mechanism, 

162, 183 
Mansfield, Richard, 209, 210 
Marden, Orison Swett, 32 
Markham, Edwin, 52 
Martin, E. S., 32 
Mason, Walt, 52 
Matthews, Brander, 11 



Mechanistic View of War and 

Peace, A, 191 
Merrill, Stuart, 46 
Metropolitan, 34 
Mitchell, Donald G., 23 
Moore, George, 38, 93 
More, Paul Elmer, 11, 19, 21, 22, 

26 
Morris, Gouverneur, 33, 34, 43 
My Antonia, 42 
My Book and I, 64 
My Neighbors, 147 
Mysterious Stranger, The, 53 

Nation, 23, 27, 121 
Nietzsche, F. W., 81, 111, 240 
Night Life in Chicago, 224 
Nordfeldt, Bror, 206 et seq. 
Norris, Charles G., 55 
Norris, Frank, 34, 42, 55 
Norris, Kathleen, 56 
Northcliffe, Lord, 66 
Noyes, Alfred, 93, 175 

O'Brien, Edward J., 43 
O'Neill, Eugene, 30 
Oppenheim, E. Phillips, 35 
Oppenheim, James, 52 
O'SuUivan, Vincent, 45, 51, 56 

Parmelee, Maurice, 216 

Parsifal, 187 

Perry, Bliss, 21 

Personality and Conduct, 216 

Phelps, Wm. Lyon, 11, 21, 23 

Phillips, David Graham, 34 

Poe, Edgar Allan, 14, 18, 44, 45, 

53, 57, 59 et seq., 60, 91, 96 et 

seq., 162 
Poetic Principle, The, 61 
Poetry: a Magazine of Verse, 26, 

29 
Porter, Eleanor H., 32 
Pound, Ezra, 45 
Prescott, W. H., 44, 91 
Puritanism, 20, 24, 27 

Ransome, Arthur, 63 



254 



INDEX 



Rathenau, Walther von, 75 
Reading, Lord, 66, 93 
Reese, Lizette Woodworth, 30 
Repplier, Agnes, 19, 30 
Ricardo, David, 75 
Ride of the Valkyrie, The, 198 
Rideout, Henry Milner, 33 
Riley, James Whitcomb, 32 
Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 32, 33 
Rockefeller, John D., 74 
Rolland, Romain, 52, 56 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 102 et seq. 
Rossetti, Christina, 180 



Saintsbury, George, 60 

Sandburg, Carl, 52 

Sargent, John, 207 

Saturday Evening Post, 18, 34 et 

seq. 
Scheffauer, Herman George, 45 
Schubert, Franz, 200 
Schumann, Robert, 89, 165, 241 
Shakespeare, Wm, 21, 101, 241 
Shaw, George Bernard, 52, 55 
Shelburne Essays, 23 
Sherman, S. P., 22, 24, 27, 110 

et seq. 
Sisson documents, 85, 105 
Spingarn, J. E., 23 
Stanton, Frank L., 145, 152 
Stearns, Harold, 100 
Sterbelied, Das, 43 
Sterling, George, 27 
Stratton-Porter, Gene, 33 
Strauss, Johann, 205 
Strauss, Richard, 199, 201, 203 
Strawinsky, Igor, 201 
Sudermann, Hermann, 41, 43 
Sumner, William Graham, 103 
Sunday, Billy, 102 



Tarkington, Booth, 33 
Teasdale, Sara, 30 



Tendencies in Modern American 

Poetry, 45 
Thayer, William Roscoe, 27, 106 

et seq. 
Theodore Roosevelt, 106 
Thomas, Augustus, 27, 32 
Thoreau, Henry David, 63 
Times Book Review, New York, 

27, 58, 98 
Townsend, E. W., 27 

Vance, Louis Joseph, 34 
Vandover and the Brute, 42 
Van Dyke, Henry, 21, 22 
van Dyke, John C, 45 
Van Vechten, Carl, 201 
Veblen, Thorstein, 91 
Virginia, 139 et seq. 

Wagner, Richard, 21, 163, 187, 

199, 203, 241 
Walpole, Hugh, 38, 56 
Weber, F. Parkes, 185 et seq. 
Webster, Noah, 12 
Wellman, Rita, 30 
Wells, H. G., 52 
Wendell, Barrett, 13 
Wharton, Edith, 23, 42, 45, 46 
What Every Young Husband 

Should Know, 224 
What is Man?, 53, 89, 98 
Whitman, Stephen French, 34 
Whitman, Walt, 10 et seq., 17, 53, 

56, 57, 59, 64, 96 et seq. 
Whittier, J. G., 63 
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler, 32, 35 
Willis, N. P., 60 
Wilson, Harry Leon, 34 
Wilson, Woodrow, 92, 102, 108 et 

seq., 145 
Wister, Owen, 27 
Woodberry, George, E., 19, 27 
Wright, Harold Bell, 32 

Zangwill, Israel, 93 

















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